St. Claire's second swashbuckling romantic intrigue (after Tropical Getaway ) mixes American grit with European glamour. After her dream wedding collapses, art historian Janine Coulter travels from her California home to the French royal palace at Versailles to oversee an exhibit featuring three priceless Sèvres vases. Her efforts to give these beloved artifacts the showing they deserve are complicated by Luc Tremont, the opinionated but undeniably sexy Frenchman hired to supervise exhibition security. When the vases are stolen at the opening gala, Luc and Janine give chase in a journey that brings them through lush French wine country into the mountains of Switzerland. Along the way, both a fiery attraction and a hesitant intimacy build. As their investigations reach a climax in a Swiss casino, Janine discovers that the theft is part of an international sting—and that Luc is actually Nick Jarrett, a former thief trying to win pardon by working with the FBI. St. Claire's characterization of Janine, though appealing, is unfocused; it's hard to imagine this elegant intellectual welcoming mayhem quite so coolly. But in Luc/Nick, St. Claire has created a truly compelling romantic hero, an enticing mix of sophisticated French seduction and solid, all-American male. With its clever plotting, evocative settings and vivid sensuality, this offering is sure to set tongues wagging. (Feb.)
Forecast: Keep an eye on this budding author. With four books due out just this year and a Downtown Press trade paperback scheduled for January 2005, St. Claire will likely be one of the most talked about new authors in the genre. This is an author who's on the fast track to making her name a household one.