cover image Vegas Heat

Vegas Heat

Fern Michaels. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $25 (392pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-138-4

Michaels's Vegas Rich saw millionaire ex-prostitute Sallie Coleman bequeath her fortune to her daughter-in-law, Fanny Thornton. In this second installment of an intended trilogy, it is 1980 and Fanny has divorced her misanthropic playboy husband, Ash Thornton, who has been confined to a wheelchair since he fell from a girder during the construction of Babylon, the Thorntons' Las Vegas casino. Searching for happiness, Fanny marries her longtime lover, Simon, who is Ash's brother. After three years of living in the mountains breeding Yorkie pups, Fanny remains unfulfilled. Simon's sudden possessiveness has stifled her spirit and estranged her four children, including daughter Sunny, who is fighting a debilitating disease. When Ash learns he hasn't long to live, Fanny takes over Babylon and ends her marriage to Simon, who tries to gain possession of the casino through the divorce proceedings, only to be trounced in a gratifying scene featuring a tough-as-nails lawyer. Elsewhere, however, Michaels's soap-opera plotting is trite and her villains disappointingly wimpy. Fanny even manages to save Ash from some mafioso-type loan sharks by giving them a stern tongue-lashing and ordering the electricity in their casinos switched off. Crude sex scenes (""Stoke that fire, baby. Do it, do it, do it!"") are thankfully few, but long-lost Thornton relatives and illegitimate offspring swarm like locusts. In the end, Fanny leaves Las Vegas with a new man, this one blessedly unrelated to the Thornton clan, though Michaels shows no sign of straying from her reliable formula of equal parts glitz and true grit. (Mar.)