There's no looking back for Roberts, who made the break to hardcover with the best-selling Montana Sky (LJ 2/1/96). Her latest tells of a young woman who finds danger and love when she returns to her childhood home.
On the heel of the breakout hardcover success of bestseller Montana Sky, Roberts plows through a predictable saga of passion, betrayal and murder involving an estranged Southern family haunted by tragedy. Recovering from a nervous breakdown brought on by a malevolent stalker, photographer Jo Ellen Hathaway returns to Sanctuary, her childhood home located on a small resort island off the coast of Georgia. But the lush island offers little solace, for there Jo must face the troubled family relationships and painful memories caused by her mother's mysterious disappearance 20 years earlier. Soon, however, Jo finds unexpected joy in the love of a man who leads her to the truth about her mother's life and death and about the crazed stalker who wants Jo dead. Roberts has a talent for vivid description: the sounds and smells of this verdant island waft from the page; her characters' sexual encounters mirror the island's fecundity and shimmer with Southern heat. But she dilutes the story with a silly murder mystery that distracts from the intriguing elements of Jo's confrontation with her past, her discovery of true love and her reconciliation with her family. The denouement arrives with a yawn, despite the arrival of a clichéd hurricane, which is just one example of how Roberts succumbs to the temptation to throw everything into the pot. 250,000 first printing; $250,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild main selection. (Mar.) FYI: Roberts was the first writer to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America's Hall of Fame.