Desert Isle Keeper
He tucked his arm through hers, his large hand covering hers, and there was no escape. She trembled, but she didn’t pull away, letting him draw her down the sidewalk. “You see,” he murmured, “just two harmless souls on a stroll down Park Avenue. Who would have thought about the darkness that lurks beneath our pleasant surface?”
“There is no darkness in my life,” Cassidy snapped.
He glanced down at her. “Yes, there is,” he said gently. “I’m in your life.”
In some ways, Nightfall is the definitive Anne Stuart book. It’s not a book for those who want their romance heroes kind and gentle, or even all that loving, or their love stories bathed in sweetness and light. This hero is anything but gentle, and this love story springs from much darker emotions. But for readers wiling to explore a different kind of desire, it’s not to be missed. It’s dark. It’s fascinating. It’s unforgettable.
Cassidy Roarke’s father is a once-prestigious writer whose star has fallen in recent years. Selfish and utterly self-absorbed, Sean O’Rourke was never much of a father to her, yet she still longs for his love and acceptance. When he calls and asks her to come help him work on his new book, she knows she should say no. Instead, she finds herself on a train to New York.
True to form, Sean gave her no indication of his true motives or what he is up to. She finds out soon enough when she encounters the guest staying at his New York apartment. Richard Tiernan is an infamous figure, a former college professor accused of murdering his wife and two children, and who knows how many other women. Convicted of his wife’s murder, he is currently out on bail pending his appeal. He is the subject of Sean’s new book, and Sean paid his bail. Tiernan agreed to help Sean with his book. Cassidy doesn’t know what her father promised in return: her.
Richard has his own intentions for Cassidy Roarke, and it all begins with seducing her. She’s stronger than her father thinks, stronger than she herself knows. But though she tries, she can’t resist the pull of him. Cassie knows that falling for Richard Tiernan is the most foolish thing she could possibly do. He never proclaimed his innocence, and he remains stubbornly enigmatic about what happened the night of his wife’s death. He offers her no reason to believe he is anything but a cold-blooded killer. But he also sparks something so primal within her that she can’t resist him.
This is a modern gothic in its truest sense. Stuart distills the gothic romance to its essence, strips away most of the old-fashioned trappings, then pushes it to its very limits. It’s the story of a dark, damaged man living under a cloud of mystery and suspicion, one who gives every indication he may be guilty of his crime. It’s the story of the woman helplessly, irrevocably drawn to him despite everything she knows. But though the gothic story has been done many times before, it’s never been done like this, as Stuart sucks the reader straight into the characters’ intense, obsessive relationship. She makes it so that the reader can feel Richard’s dark allure the way Cassie does and experience the slow, seductive dance of their relationship in every wary, back-and-forth exchange.
“It’s all a game to you, isn’ it? Some nasty, manipulative little exercise in mind control.”
“Actually,” he said, “it’s not only your mind I’m interested in. I want your body and soul as well.”
Whether or not I enjoy a Stuart book often depends on two things: whether the heroine is able to give the hero a good fight (because a weak heroine makes me like the hero even less) and whether the author gives the reader some kind of psychological understanding into the hero’s behavior. Nightfall works on both counts. Tiernan does overwhelm Cassie, but she doesn’t roll over for him. He thinks he can bend her to his will, but she doesn’t make it so easy for him. Even when she’s under his spell, she doesn’t come across as weak, because the author makes it so easy to understand her response.
Stuart also gradually reveals Richard’s mindset and motivations through a series of gradual developments throughout the course of the book. By the end, the reader can understand the reasons for everything he has done. That doesn’t mean Stuart turns him into some cuddly misunderstood good guy in the end. Not even close. His behavior is understandable, if not necessarily defensible. That’s what makes him such a compelling sort of antihero and so much more interesting than dark heroes who are just dark for darkness sake. It’s fascinating to see a man like this and watch what he’s going to do and how far he’ll go. Stuart delivers psychological depths most romances wouldn’t dream of approaching. She explores the truly dark desire that defies all logic and sensibility and really illuminates the souls of these characters to show why they make the choices they do. These are complex characters unlike most you’re likely to find in a romance novel. Their relationship is just as complicated.
The book has its share of surprises. It’s surprising that a suspense novel can be this character-driven yet also intricately plotted and unpredictable. It’s surprising that a romance this dark can deliver some heartbreaking moments. It’s an emotional read, from the raw intensity of the sexual relationship to scenes of unexpected poignance and power to some of the more shocking moments that unfold near the end. Is this a book for everyone? Not in the least. But just because something isn’t fit for mass consumption doesn’t mean it’s not great, and this is a great book. Nightfall is the stand-out among Stuart’s single-title thrillers and one of her very best books overall, it explores dark passion and desire in a way many writers wouldn’t dare. Readers willing to take the journey with her won’t soon forget it.