THE FIRE INSIDE
Seasoned romance scribbler Martin (Heartless; The Secret) harks back to the days when an Englishwoman playing cards was a cause for scandal, setting up a conflagration between Kitt Wentworth, a lady who will not be stifled by the strict conventions of 1805 London society, and Clayton Harcourt, the bastard son of a duke who savors taunting her beyond the bounds of propriety. Their verbal sparring conceals an attraction that only Kitt seems unaware of, but when one midnight adventure too many goes wrong, Clay and Kitt find themselves on their way to the altar—and to a love-filled marriage neither guessed was in their future. An enemy from Kitt's past and Kitt's distrust in Clay's ability to remain faithful are the only stumbling blocks that stand in the way of their newfound happiness. The sex scenes sizzle, but Martin deftly dodges the superficial, hot-sex-equals-true-love relationship formula, making Kitt and Clay fumble through the more difficult task of proving their commitment while out of bed. Though Martin offers no surprises, she delivers an assured winner with solid plotting, a strong hero and a spirited heroine whom readers will embrace. (Feb.)
Forecast:Martin pens both historical romances and contemporaries, but her stardom began with her historicals. With a large, dedicated troop of fans who will eagerly snatch this one off the shelf, and an attractive cover and print advertising in the Romantic Times and USA Today, this should be a surefire seller for Valentine's.