The Barnes & Noble Review
Bestselling romance author Julie Garwood has built both a career and a solid readership writing romances that offer a perfect blend of history, passion, and mystery. With novels like her recent hits Ransom and The Secret, Garwood has been delighting readers of historical romance for years. Now, with her latest release, entitled Heartbreaker, she brings her talent to bear on a contemporary saga, one that has all of Garwood's trademark passion and suspense spiced up with a modern-day flavor that will undoubtedly broaden her appeal.
Heartbreaker explores the dark and sinister corners of a serial killer's mind as he implements a masterful and deadly plan. At the heart of the plan is a jaded FBI agent, a Catholic priest who is his best friend, and the priest's sister, a lovely young woman named Laurant Madden. Laurant lives in Holy Oaks, Iowa, a quiet little town where the biggest crimes are the antics of the sheriff's son and the occasional fistfight among the rowdies. Still, Laurant's life is anything but dull. As one of the shop owners on the historic town square, she refuses to sell to the developer who wants to tear it all down and build a mall. Then there's the town big shot, who is determined to have Laurant as his wife, though she won't give him the time of day. Now Laurant's life is about to get much more complicated in a highly explosive way.
When Laurant's brother Tom hears a confession from a man who reveals a murderous past with almost casual indifference, the priest tries to convince the killer to give himself up. When the killer then claims he is about to commit murder again, Tom becomes even more desperate, though he assures the man his confession is confidential and protected. But then the killer names his next victim, and all of Tom's assurances fly out the window. For the name the killer mentions is none other than Tom's sister, Laurant. Any lingering doubts Tom may have about betraying the killer's confidence are eliminated when the killer taunts the police by sending them a taped copy of his confession.
Tom immediately puts in a call to his best friend, Nick Buchanan, who is part of an elite specialty group with the FBI that deals with crimes against children. The work has taken its toll on Nick, leaving him cynical, hardened, and emotionally withdrawn. Prepared to take a lengthy leave anyway, Nick immediately moves to Holy Oaks, where he and several other agents devise a plan. After announcing that Nick and Laurant are a couple and intend to marry, the twosome put on a very public display of affection while spreading stories about the impotence of the killer's threats.
Nick hopes their actions will trigger a rage in the killer that will make him lash out impulsively. He gets the response he wants, but the plan backfires because Nick and his cohorts have underestimated the desperation of this killer. Adding to the tension is the fact that Laurant and Nick are ill-prepared for the impact their little charade will have on their own emotions, as the lines between their game and reality start to blur beneath the weight of a very real passion.
Garwood has managed to craft a good mystery with plenty of red herrings. She plays fair with her clues but pulls a wonderful sleight of hand, burying them in plain sight amidst a cast of intriguing and entertaining characters, the sizzling passion between Nick and Laurant, and all the amusing quips and quirks of small-town life. This one should appeal to fans of romance and mystery alike.
Mega-selling historical author Julie Garwood takes her unique voice and taent and moves into the contemporary genre. Heartbreaker establishes that Ms. Garwood has quite a flair for intrigue and suspense.
A psychopath confides his obsessions to a terrified priest, whose beloved sister is the star of the killer's homicidal fantasies: Garwood's first foray into contemporary romantic suspense. Father Tom Madden and younger sib Laurant are close, even though the untimely death of their parents meant a childhood spent thousands of miles apart. The lovely Laurant grew up in a posh Swiss boarding school run by kindly nuns, while Tom was raised by the equally kindly Buchanan family in heartland America. Nick Buchanan, like a brother to Tom then, is now a special agent for the FBI. Tom turns to Nick to help track down the mysterious killer who calls himself Heartbreaker, but Laurant wishes he hadn't. Her immediate reaction to the "incredibly sexy" FBI agent is anything but sisterly, though his protectiveness and take-charge attitude trouble her. When Laurant realizes, however, that the stalker is getting closer every day, she stops arguing with Nick and falls in love. For the most part, Garwood avoids the grittiness of a procedural thriller and only hints at gory doings, concentrating instead on psychological suspense and Heartbreaker's increasing derangement as her somewhat formulaic story moves rapidly to a shattering climax. Straightforward style and brisk pacing zip readers past minor implausibilities, aided by a host of familiar small-town types, including a batty neighbor and a crooked sheriff. Readers of the author's historical romances (For the Roses, 1995, etc.) will be on familiar territory here despite the modern-day setting, and the frank sensuality of the love scenes is sure to please. A quickie denouement resolves the soapy subplotsLaurant's legal wrangle over a familytrust,Nick's fear of flying (hey, tough guys can tremble), Father Tom's battle with cancerand naturally love triumphs. Add a pinch of Psycho to a generous helping of General Hospital, and you've got the idea.
San Antonio Express-News Frightening....keeps you guessing until the end.
The Kansas City Star Will leave your heart pounding....The suspense builds nonstop.
New York Post Heartbreaker moves along at a racehorse pace, its plot swerving and darting with sudden turns and jolts....Garwood's characters are well drawn.
USA Today Heartbreaker dances between suspense and romance.
The Kansas City Star Just when it looks like the ride is over, the action ratchets up again and doesn't let up until the final shot has been fired.
Publishers Weekly In her first contemporary suspense thriller, Garwood explodes out of the narrative gate....
The Anniston Star (AL) Engrossing....addictive...by turns explosive and unpredictable....You cheer for the good guys and are glad when the bad guys get caught....[Garwood] has found a niche for herself in contemporary romantic fiction.
Kirkus Reviews Moves rapidly to a shattering climax....the frank sensuality of the love scenes is sure to please.
Port St. Lucie News (Stuart, FL) A heart-stopping romantic suspense story.
BookPage Garwood employs all the senses, creating vivid characterizations and unexpected twists and turns.