cover image Afraid


Lisa Jackson, Alexandra Ivy, and Lisa Childs. Zebra, $9.99 mass market (416p) ISBN 978-1-4201-5363-7

These three flawed romantic suspense novellas are linked by a fun but underutilized central conceit: that all three heroines are alumnae of the same exclusive Austrian boarding school. In Jackson’s “Retribution,” young Lucy Champagne witnesses an attack on her movie star mother and sends the perpetrator to prison with her testimony. When he’s released 25 years later, Lucy hides out in an isolated cabin with her daughter, spending most of the dull plot waiting for him to find her and fretting. The final twist is surprising but nonsensical and delivered with a shrug, and there’s only the barest hint of romance. Ivy’s “Ghosts” is more satisfying, as Rayne Taylor discovers that her high school roommate, Nat, who supposedly died by suicide, was in fact murdered and teams up with Nat’s brother to find the killer. Unfortunately, the murderer’s identity is telegraphed too early, defanging the climax. “Alone” by Childs sees Erin MacDonald return to the family estate where she and her sister, Anna Beth, were kidnapped as children. Erin was returned with no memory of what happened, but Anna Beth never came home. As Erin’s memories resurface, Childs creates an effective mystery and a sweet romance with the detective on the case, but the writing itself is clumsy and repetitive. This is an easy one to skip. (Mar.)