Deborah Smith, . . Little, Brown, $23.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-316-80094-5

The title of romance writer Smith's latest (after On Bear Mountain) alludes to a pink marble hideaway on the family estate in Burnt Stand, N.C., where Darl Union grows up fabulously wealthy but lonely, the orphan granddaughter of Swan Hardigree Samples, town autocrat and owner of Hardigree Marble Company. On a hot summer day in 1972, seven-year-old Darl watches as 10-year-old Eli Wade and his family push their broken-down pickup into town. She knows from the minute she sees Eli that the two of them are meant to be together, but the Wades' presence in Burnt Stand stirs up long-buried troubles. When those troubles culminate in a murder, the Wades suffer the consequences, and Darl and Eli are torn apart. Twenty-five years later, Darl has become a defense attorney passionately devoted to mercy and justice, and Eli is a reformed high-stakes gambler, with millions of dollars to spend on pet causes. After Swan suffers a heart attack, Darl and Eli find themselves back in Burnt Stand, still in love, but haunted by the unsolved mystery in their past. The exotic family history of the Hardigrees (involving prostitution, arson, out-of-wedlock births, half-siblings of different races and smalltown empire-building) colors the tale in florid shades, and Smith piles on plot twists with a heavy hand. The late 20th-century setting is a bit incongruous—the dynastic goings-on seem better suited to an earlier era—but Smith knows how to generate genuine emotion, and readers will be wringing out their hankies by the time the protracted conclusion rolls around. Southern author tour. (Feb. 2)