Grief-stricken at her father's suicide and struggling to cope with the collapse of the family businesses, photographer Alexandra Haywood travels to her family's thoroughbred horse farm in Paradise County, Kentucky. She cannot understand why her father would take his life, and her journey to Whistledown Farm is driven by her need for answers as well as the need to sell the farm. Sparks fly when she encounters farm manager Joe Welch, and Alexandra is yanked from the cold lethargy of grief that has gripped her emotions since her father's death. She doesn't want to be attracted to the handsome, difficult man but her hormones refuse to cooperate. Joe doesn't want to crave the gorgeous blond who intends to sell the farm and destroy his dreams, but he, too, has no choice.
The two have bigger problems, however, when a crazed killer whose heinous crimes have gone undetected in Paradise County for many years targets Alexandra. Before Joe can save her, his own son and her young sister may also fall victim to the madman. Robards expertly balances an intensely sensual love story with a truly chilling suspense plot set against a colorful Southern backdrop. Paradise County will have readers on the edge of their seats until the final page.
Set in Kentucky bluegrass country, Robard's latest romance-cum-thriller (after Ghost Moon) is suspenseful and atmospheric, another winner by a doyenne of the bestseller lists. By turns the gory saga of a psychopath with a penchant for burning his victims alive and a tender tale of true love, the novel veers into extremes, but is still an engaging read. Joe Welch, the stalwart manager of Whistledown Farm in beautiful Paradise County, is a struggling single father possessed of an alcoholic dad, three kids and a passion for horseflesh. When his employer, Charles Haywood, turns up dead in the Whistledown stables, an apparent suicide, Joe knows trouble lies ahead, but he doesn't expect to be fired by Haywood's gorgeous, brilliant photographer daughter, Alex. Granted, Alex doesn't have much choice. Not only is her beloved father dead, but his financial empire has crumbled. Alex's woes soon multiply: informed by telephone that her duplicitous fianc has married someone else, she must also cope with her willful young sister, Neely, who has run away from boarding school to join Alex in Kentucky. Though Alex and Joe (described as "sex on a stick") start out on the wrong foot, events require them to get to know one another better, and sparks fly. Meantime, however, a resourceful local who makes Hannibal Lecter look tame threatens their happiness, their families and their sanity. Even though the narrative loses steam after a particularly strong first chapter, and Robards's villain is two-dimensional, readers will cheer and care for her protagonists.