cover image Maggy's Child

Maggy's Child

Karen Robards. Delacorte Press, $19.95 (344pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31205-9

In her fourth romance, Robards ( This Side of Heaven ) combines elements of wife abuse, sexual secrets and mother love. Lyle and Maggy Forrest and their son David, 11, seem to be a stable, wealthy Kentucky family, but Lyle is physically abusive and Maggy is trapped by a web of secrets and by her love for her son. Then after 12 years, Nick King, Maggy's protector when they were children in the Louisville projects and David's real father, reappears as a prosperous nightclub owner. Although unaware of David's patrimony, King wants Maggy back and to do so he is ``looking for dirt'' about Lyle. There turns out to be plenty. Blackmail, the DEA and other elements follow along with a large cast of secondary characters like Tia Gloria who thinks she's psychic; Nick's half-brother Link, who has a shady past; and a huge, nasty parrot named Horatio who plays a vital (though incredible) role in the denouement. After Maggy is freed from a horrible memory, love scenes (with Nick) are frequent and explicit. Robards's language is often mundane: ``You take my breath away,'' says Nick, looking at the ``strawberry-tipped bounty of her breasts.'' Nor is the author's treatment of the crucial issue of wife abuse exactly profound or realistic. Love does conquer all, though, as formula dictates. Author tour. (Feb.)