cover image OUT OF THE BLUE


JoAnn Ross, . . Pocket, $6.99 (355pp) ISBN 978-0-7434-6474-1

Ross's latest, the second in a trilogy begun with the far stronger Out of the Mist , follows famous country singer Lark Stewart through perils worthy of the silent screen's Pauline. They begin when Lark's longtime bandmate Danny Murphy is shot in New Orleans. Briefly suspected of the crime, Lark is then released, but not before a sadist who has stalked her escapes from jail. Her family sends her girlhood sweetheart, Lucas McCloud, to protect her. A onetime sniper and FBI agent turned furniture maker, Lucas's lifelong love for Lark—derailed first by teenage folly and later by his dangerous work—has never died. Though their return to their birthplace in the Smokies re-ignites their romance, Lark remains under threat from the stalker, a scheming ex-husband and Danny's still-unidentified attacker. In place of the colorful history and family humor found in Ross's previous installment, this book offers a jumble of overcomplicated backstory, inconsequential characters and melodramatic plot twists, including a temporary and unlikely bout of amnesia and a plane crash. Crowded with contrivance, the story never finds either its rhythm or its heart; to the end, Lark and Lucas remain puppets of the frantic plot rather than compelling characters in and of themselves. (Mar.)