Public Secrets

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Overview

New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts deftly blends romance and suspense in this compelling novel of a woman whose career, marriage, and very life are threatened by the truth about her own past.
 
Emma McAvoy may have grown up in the limelight, but some secrets are hidden in a darkness no light can reach. Now on the verge of a successful career, and having ...

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Overview

New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts deftly blends romance and suspense in this compelling novel of a woman whose career, marriage, and very life are threatened by the truth about her own past.
 
Emma McAvoy may have grown up in the limelight, but some secrets are hidden in a darkness no light can reach. Now on the verge of a successful career, and having fallen in love with the man of her dreams, Emma is looking to the future. Yet it’s the past that is about to catch up with her.
 
For Emma, her childhood had been almost like a rags-to-riches fairy tale—until the tragic night that changed her family forever. But what Emma thinks she knows about that terrible night and the man she’s about to marry is only half the truth. The other half is locked away in the last place she’d ever think to look: her own memories. It’s a mystery a handsome and relentlessly driven homicide detective needs to solve in a case that’s haunted him for years—and a secret someone will kill to keep.

Emma grew up a frightened, lonely child, the illegitimate result of a pop music star's secret union. When her famous father rescues her and leads her into a star-studded world of wealth and privilege, Emma realizes that she carries a frightening secret--one that someone might kill to have kept private.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR NORA ROBERTS
 
“[Nora] Roberts continues to find new and clever ways to flawlessly fuse thrilling suspense and sexy romance into captivating stories.”—Booklist
 
“Roberts is a superstar.”—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Complex relationships among a believable ensemble of characters give Roberts's ( Sweet Revenge ) new romantic thriller much of its appeal. Emma McAvoy, daughter of a British rock star, is only six years old when her infant half-brother Darren is murdered in a bungled kidnapping attempt. Emma, the only witness, remembers little of that night, and while investigators determine that someone close to the family was involved, the case is never solved. Nagged by fears for her safety, Emma's father has her trailed by a bodyguard whenever she is not closed away in a private school. But as she grows up, neither guards nor a loving father can protect her from the nightmares and feelings of guilt that torment her. Nor can they shield her from Darren's murderers. Although it concludes with a satisfyingly gripping finale, the mystery is more a recurring element than a driving force, as the story explores the members of McAvoy's rock group, Emma's devotion to her father (who bought custody of Emma from her abusive, alcoholic mother), her destructive marriage and the father-son detective team whose dedication to the McAvoys and this case lasts more than 20 years. (July)
Library Journal
Set to go hardcover-thanks to the success of last year's Sweet Revenge, which was originally released as a paperback-this 1990 romance features the illegitimate daughter of a music icon who discovers she has talents of her own.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553386400
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 236,183
  • Product dimensions: 8.28 (w) x 5.26 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Nora Roberts is the number-one New York Times–bestselling author of Whiskey Beach, The Witness, Chasing Fire, and The Search, among other titles. She is also the author of the bestselling In Death series, written under the pen name J. D. Robb. There are more than 400 million copies of her novels in print.

Biography

Not only has Nora Roberts written more bestsellers than anyone else in the world (according to Publishers Weekly), she’s also created a hybrid genre of her own: the futuristic detective romance. And that’s on top of mastering every subgenre in the romance pie: the family saga, the historical, the suspense novel. But this most prolific and versatile of authors might never have tapped into her native talent if it hadn't been for one fateful snowstorm.

As her fans well know, in 1979 a blizzard trapped Roberts at home for a week with two bored little kids and a dwindling supply of chocolate. To maintain her sanity, Roberts started scribbling a story -- a romance novel like the Harlequin paperbacks she'd recently begun reading. The resulting manuscript was rejected by Harlequin, but that didn't matter to Roberts. She was hooked on writing. Several rejected manuscripts later, her first book was accepted for publication by Silhouette.

For several years, Roberts wrote category romances for Silhouette -- short books written to the publisher's specifications for length, subject matter and style, and marketed as part of a series of similar books. Roberts has said she never found the form restrictive. "If you write in category, you write knowing there's a framework, there are reader expectations," she explained. "If this doesn't suit you, you shouldn't write it. I don't believe for one moment you can write well what you wouldn't read for pleasure."

Roberts never violated the reader's expectations, but she did show a gift for bringing something fresh to the romance formula. Her first book, Irish Thoroughbred (1981), had as its heroine a strong-willed horse groom, in contrast to the fluttering young nurses and secretaries who populated most romances at the time. But Roberts's books didn't make significant waves until 1985, when she published Playing the Odds, which introduced the MacGregor clan. It was the first bestseller of many.

Roberts soon made a name for herself as a writer of spellbinding multigenerational sagas, creating families like the Scottish MacGregors, the Irish Donovans and the Ukrainian Stanislaskis. She also began working on romantic suspense novels, in which the love story unfolds beneath a looming threat of violence or disaster. She grew so prolific that she outstripped her publishers' ability to print and market Nora Roberts books, so she created an alter ego, J.D. Robb. Under the pseudonym, she began writing romantic detective novels set in the future. By then, millions of readers had discovered what Publishers Weekly called her "immeasurable diversity and talent."

Although the style and substance of her books has grown, Roberts remains loyal to the genre that launched her career. As she says, "The romance novel at its core celebrates that rush of emotions you have when you are falling in love, and it's a lovely thing to relive those feelings through a book."

Good To Know

Roberts still lives in the same Maryland house she occupied when she first started writing -- though her carpenter husband has built on some additions. She and her husband also own Turn the Page Bookstore Café in Boonsboro, Maryland. When Roberts isn't busy writing, she likes to drop by the store, which specializes in Civil War titles as well as autographed copies of her own books.

Roberts sued fellow writer Janet Dailey in 1997, accusing her of plagiarizing numerous passages of her work over a period of years. Dailey paid a settlement and publicly apologized, blaming stress and a psychological disorder for her misconduct.

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    1. Also Known As:
      J. D. Robb; Sarah Hardesty; Jill March; Eleanor Marie Robertson (birth name)
    2. Hometown:
      Keedysville, Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
      1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      Silver Spring, Maryland

Read an Excerpt

The first time Emma met her father, she was nearly three years old.  She knew what he looked like because her mother kept pictures of him, meticulously cut from newspapers and glossy magazines, on every surface in their cramped three-room flat.  Jane Palmer had a habit of carrying her daughter, Emma, from picture to picture hanging on the water-stained walls and sitting on the dusty scarred furniture and telling her of the glorious love affair that had bloomed between herself and Brian McAvoy, lead singer for the hot rock group, Devastation.  The more Jane drank, the greater that love became.

Emma understood only parts of what she was told.  She knew that the man in the pictures was important, that he and his band had played for the queen.  She had learned to recognize his voice when his songs came on the radio, or when her mother put one of the 45s she collected on the record player.

Emma liked his voice, and what she would learn later was called its faint Irish lilt.

Some of the neighbors tut-tutted about the poor little girl upstairs with a mother who had a fondness for the gin bottle and a vicious temper.  There were times they heard Jane's shrill curses and Emma's sobbing wails.  Their lips would firm and knowing looks would pass between the ladies as they shook out their rugs or hung up the weekly wash.

In the early days of the summer of 1967, the summer of love, they shook their heads when they heard the little girl's cries through the open window of the Palmer flat.  Most agreed that young Jane Palmer didn't deserve such a sweet-faced child, but they murmured only among themselves.  No one in that part of London would dream of reporting such a matter to the authorities.

Of course, Emma didn't understand terms like alcoholism or emotional illness, but even though she was only three she was an expert on gauging her mother's moods.  She knew the days her mother would laugh and cuddle, the days she would scold and slap.  When the atmosphere in the flat was particularly heavy, Emma would take her stuffed black dog, Charlie, crawl under the cabinet beneath the kitchen sink, and in the dark and damp, wait out her mother's temper

On some days, she wasn't quick enough.

"Hold still, do, Emma."  Jane dragged the brush through Emma's pale blond hair. With her teeth gritted, she resisted the urge to whack the back of it across her daughter's rump.  She wasn't going to lose her temper today, not today. "I'm going to make you pretty.  You want to be especially pretty today, don't you?"

Emma didn't care very much about looking pretty, not when her mother's brush strokes were hurting her scalp and the new pink dress was scratchy with starch. She continued to wriggle on the stool as Jane tried to tie her flyaway curls back with a ribbon.

"I said hold still."  Emma squealed when Jane dug hard fingers into the nape of her neck.  "Nobody loves a dirty, nasty girl."  After two long breaths, Jane relaxed her grip.  She didn't want to put bruises on the child.  She loved her, really.  And bruises would look bad, very bad, to Brian if he noticed them.

After dragging her from the stool, Jane kept a firm hand on Emma's shoulder. "Take that sulky look off your face, my girl."  But she was pleased with the results.  Emma, with her wispy blond curls and big blue eyes, looked like a pampered little princess.  "Look here."  Jane's hands were gentle again as she turned Emma to the mirror.  "Don't you look nice?"

Emma's mouth moved stubbornly into a pout as she studied herself in the spotted glass.  Her voice mirrored her mother's cockney and had a trace of a childish lisp.  "Itchy."

"A lady has to be uncomfortable if she wants a man to think she's beautiful." Jane's own slimming black corset was biting into her flesh.

"Why?"

"Because that's part of a woman's job."  She turned, examining first one side, then the other in the mirror.  The dark blue dress was flattering to her full curves, making the most of her generous breasts.  Brian had always liked her breasts, she thought, and felt a quick, sexual pull.

God, no one ever before or since had matched him in bed.  There was a hunger in him, a wild hunger he hid so well under his cool and cocky exterior.  She had known him since childhood, had been his on-again, off-again lover for more than ten years.  No one knew better what Brian was capable of when fully aroused.

She allowed herself to fantasize, just for a moment, what it would be like when he peeled the dress away, when his eyes roamed over her, when his slender, musician's fingers unhooked the frilly corset.

They'd been good together, she remembered as she felt herself go damp.  They would be good together again.

Bringing herself back, she picked up the brush and smoothed her hair.  She had spent the last of the grocery money at the hairdresser's getting her shoulder-length straight hair colored to match Emma's.  Turning her head, she watched it sway from side to side.  After today, she wouldn't have to worry about money ever again.

Her lips were carefully painted a pale, pale pink—the same shade she had seen on supermodel Jane Asher's recent Vogue cover.  Nervous, she picked up her black liner and added more definition near the corner of each eye.

Fascinated, Emma watched her mother.  Today she smelled of Tigress cologne instead of gin.  Tentatively, Emma reached out for the lipstick tube.  Her hand was slapped away.

"Keep your hands off my things." She gave Emma's finger an extra slap.  "Haven't I told you never to touch my things?"

Emma nodded.  Her eyes had already filmed over.

"And don't start that bawling.  I don't want him seeing you for the first time with your eyes all red and your face puffy.  He should have been here already." There was an edge to Jane's voice now, one that had Emma moving cautiously out of range. "If he doesn't come soon..." She trailed off, going over her options as she studied herself in the glass.

She had always been a big girl, but had never run to fat.  True, the dress was a little snug, but she strained against it in interesting places.  Skinny might be in fashion, but she knew men preferred round, curvy women when the lights went out.  She'd been making her living off her body long enough to be sure of it.

Her confidence built as she looked herself over and she fancied she resembled the pale, sulky-faced models who were the rage in London.  She wasn't wise enough to note that the new color job was unflattering or that the arrow-straight hair made the angles of her face boxy and harsh.  She wanted to be in tune.  She always had.

"He probably didn't believe me.  Didn't want to.  Men never want their children."  She shrugged.  Her father had never wanted her—not until her breasts had begun to develop.  "You remember that, Emma girl."  She cast a considering eye over Emma.  "Men don't want babies.  They only want a woman for one thing, and you'll find out what that is soon enough.  When they're done, they're done, and you're left with a big stomach and a broken heart."

She picked up a cigarette and began to smoke it in quick, jerky puffs as she paced.  She wished it was grass, sweet, calming grass, but she'd spent her drug money on Emma's new dress.  The sacrifices a mother made.

"Well, he may not want you, but after one look he won't be able to deny you're his."  Eyes narrowed against the smoke, she studied her daughter.  There was another tug, almost maternal.  The little tyke was certainly pretty as a picture when she was cleaned up.  "You're the goddamn image of him, Emma luv.  The papers say he's going to marry that Wilson slut—old money and fancy manners—but we'll see, we'll just see about that.  He'll come back to me.  I always knew he'd come back." She stubbed the cigarette in a chipped ashtray and left it smoldering.  She needed a drink—just one taste of gin to calm her nerves.  "You sit on the bed," she ordered.  "Sit right there and keep quiet.  Mess with any of my stuff, and you'll be sorry."

She had two drinks before she heard the knock on the door.  Her heart began to pound.  Like most drunks, she felt more attractive, more in control, once she'd had the liquor.  She smoothed down her hair, fixed what she thought was a sultry smile on her face, and opened the door.

He was beautiful.  For a moment in the streaming summer sunlight, she saw only him, tall and slender, his wavy blond hair and full, serious mouth giving him the look of a poet or an apostle.  As nearly as she was able, she loved.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 624 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(296)

4 Star

(157)

3 Star

(85)

2 Star

(39)

1 Star

(47)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 629 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    One of her best

    I wasn't always a Nora Roberts fan until recently. I just always thought of her books as harlaquin romance. Was I wrong!! Public Secrets was a great book to read and was so dynamic!

    Nora encorporated many different characters in this book who each had their own story to tell even though it all centers around Emma.

    I do believe that this book also gives you excellent insight to what a real rock stars life could be like. The talk about sex, drugs, alcohol, and rock and roll.

    Each one of Nora's characters has something that at one time in society or still to this day was viewed upon as disgraceful, shameful, etc. She brings up the topic of homosexuality, spousal abuse and how sometimes it's hard to turn away and how the abused feels it is their fault and that they deserve it. Then talks about

    Ahh just overall this book is an excellent read and gives you so many dynamics! Definitely suggest reading!

    19 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    MY FAV!!

    This is my favorite Nora Roberts book so far, not that I've read ALL of them, but I'm working on that! An exciting fairy tale ends when the young daughter of a rock star witnesses the death of her baby brother in a failed kidnapping attempt. Her young mind can't deal with it so the mind takes care of protecting her from the memory by blocking it for decades. There are wonderful, real characters, relationships and secrets to be found out. This book is touching, mysterious, suspenseful and romantic, all the elements to keep you from puttung the book down! I loved it!

    14 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A yearly read for me

    This is, hands down, my favorite of Roberts romance novels. I first read it 6 years ago and have found myself returning annually. I spend half the book biting my nails and the other half falling in love. I invited my book club to break from our classics and give it a try. They loved it just as much as I have. It also allowed us a number of deep conversations (abuse/rape/control/love/homosexuality and perserverance... just to name a few) If you are a Nora Roberts fan it is a must read. If you have yet to fall victim to the Roberts fever then I say READ THIS ONE!!!

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2010

    Great Read

    Wow! I can't believe all of the information that was put in just one book. So much happened from beginning to end. It was definately a page turner. It did make me very sad in alot of parts though. A very good read!!

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Rosie

    This was another hit by Nora Roberts I don't know how she does it but I was so involved with the story that it had me crying in parts. There is nothing like a Nora Roberts' book. When you are reading this book you feel you are there. Thank you Nora Roberts for many hours of enjoyment.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 19, 2009

    Couldn't wait to find out all of the secrets, both past and present!

    Loved the story! Great way of pulling you into the mind of the main character and keeping you guessing. Who's good? Who's bad? Who broke your heart? Loved the plot and the ending!!

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2009

    Excellent story!

    I, too, am a "child of the 60's" (was 19 during Woodstock), so loved this story and the details seem very authentic. Loved these characters with all their flaws and good points. Emma succeeded despite enormous difficulties across her entire childhood - will read again someday.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    LOVED IT!!!

    Another hit! How does she keep cranking them out!!! Just adding my 2 cents worth to the already long list, and counting, of five star reviews!! Need to recommend another fabulous book and author I recently stumbled across, EXPLOSION IN PARIS by LINDA MASEMORE PIRRUNG...I'm totally in love with this book and am hopeful for a sequel! Check out the reviews! They hooked ME!

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2009

    One of her best!!!

    I just recently started reading Nora Roberts, but I now love her. Public Secrets is one of favorites I have read so far. I completely fell in love with the characters, especially Michael. WHAT A MAN!!! The story starts with Emma as a toddler and follows her life and relationships through her twenties. It has everything: it's thrilling, sad, happy, funny, and completely romantic. I loved the sparks between Emma and Michael!! It's a must read!!!

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2009

    A good read.

    This is a good book , but unfortunately it is a re-release from 1998. If you haven't read it before it's definately worth reading. But just about anything that Nora Roberts writes is worth reading. So, get something to drink and eat, find a comfy spot and settle down cause once you start you won't want to put it down.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2006

    Nora's Very Best!!!

    This has to be by far my favorite Nora Robert's book! It is so hard to choose as I love them all however, the characters, the plot, the suspense, the romance...I could just go on and on about this book. I loved the relationship between Emma and her father. Nora's characters are so well written that by the end of the book you feel as though you have made some new friends. This is why I continue to pick this book up and read it over again! Five Stars, Highly Recommended!!!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 1999

    One of the best I have ever read

    This is the only book I have ever read by Nora Roberts, and I intend to check out her other ones!!! I fell in love with the characters and plot right away. I was mesmerized and could not put it down.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2003

    ROCK ON!!

    NORA ROBERTS SURE KNOWS HOW TO WRITE A BOOK AND KEEP THE READER READING ON PAST MIDNIGHT. IN HER BOOK PUBLIC SECRETS SHE INVOLVES A YOUNG GIRL NAMED EMMA WHO'S MOTHER BEAT HER AS A CHILD; AND A FATHER SHE'S NEVER MET ONLY HEARD ON THE RADIO. UNTILL HER FATHER COMES TO HER RESCUE. BUT EMMA NEVER KNEW SHE WOULD BE TRADING A NORMAL LIFE FOR THE ONE OF THE WORLDS MOST FAMOUSE LIFESTYLES: A ROCKBAND. TWO YEARS AFTER EMMAS FATHER PRACTICALLY SAVES HER LIFE A TRAGEDY OCCURS THAT HAUNTS EMMA AND HER FAMILY THE REST OF THEIR LIFES. WHEN EMMA TRIES TO FIND OUT THE CULPRIT BEHIND IT SHE PUTS HER LIFE ON THE LINE. BUT WITH THE HELP OF A MAN FROM HER PAST SHE OVER COMES HER FEARS AND TAKES A LOOK INTO THAT ONE NIGHT LONG AGO TO SEE IF SHE CAN UNLOCK WHAT SHE CLAIMED TO HAVE WITTNISSED AS A CHILD.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2009

    I loved this book

    This book was very well written. It was also a suspenseful book especially when the main character remembered who killed her brother.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2008

    A Must Read

    This book I have I read at least once a year and have been doing so since 1999. I am a 30 year old woman. Let me tell you this book makes you cry (and I am not a cryer), laugh, hold your breath. Basically every human emotion you have you will feel. This was the first book I ever read by Nora Roberts and to this day I still feel is the best. I'm not going to retype what it is about because you can find that out and I know you don't know me but it is such a good book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2000

    Excellent book!

    I have read many of Nora's book, but this is one of the best. Emma seemed so real that I swore I could feel what she was feeling as I read. The book keeps you involved in all of the characters lives instead of just focusing on one thing throughout the whole book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2008

    A reviewer

    I love Nora Roberts, but this tale is a departure from her evolved style. It is a rambling family saga following a traumatized 3 year old though young adulthood. I found it an uneven book -- a slowly unfolding tale of complex families and hidden agendas. The glimpse into the life of rock stars is interesting, but stereotypical. Not as tautly crafted as her best works.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2006

    best book ever

    i love this book and as a 12 year old girl it is the best.with the cute emma and the hot and sexy micheal.as i read this it makes me wont to be mad,sad,happy,and good.i love this book i can read it over and over and still dont wont to put it down.so from me you should read it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2005

    this is one of her best

    I really loved this book. Its by far one of Roberts best books. The people in the book felt very real and it was different than alot of her other books.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2003

    THRILLING!

    I`m 16, and as a dedicated reader of Nora Roberts, this was the one I recommend for great thrills, romance and suspense. I really couldn`t put this one down. I think i read it in less than a day.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 629 Customer Reviews

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