Title: Fatal Error
Author: Colleen Thompson
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published in November 2004 by Dorchester Leisure Books
It is a fact. Susan Maddox has been treated like a leper in the small community of Clementine, Texas, but she doesnít really understand. She has suffered the same losses that Virginia Maddox and Hal Beecher have, and yet it is she who is considered the outcast. She has always been aware of her mother-in-lawís hatred, and she has always blamed Susan for everything that went wrong in her life, but now the unthinkable had happened. Susan was given notice by the school board, was losing her job. There is only one force behind the rumors that circulate about her husbandís disappearance, hatred pure and simple. She has the gut feeling her mother-in-law is behind them as well as the campaign to get her fired from her teaching job. Brian was always her favourite, and Virginia has ever blamed Susan for what she perceived as deficiencies, flaws in Susanís character making her an imperfect match for any one in her family, and especially not for her favoured elder son. Susan also knew Virginiaís blind devotion to Brian had driven a deep wedge between her sons. Now, with Brian no longer in the picture, the family dealership lost, and the ranch in danger, Virginia used the best and most convenient scapegoat she could find, and that happens to be her despised daughter-in-law.
Susan canít help but sigh at the facts as she looks at them yet again. At the moment she has only a tenuous connection to reality, as her life seems to spin crazily out of control. She knows, although the sheriff has said she is not a suspect, Virginia is working overtime to spew her suspicions into every ear that will listen, and her money and influence reach a long way in the west Texas county of Ocotillo. Susan also knows the push for her dismissal came from the Conservative Ladies Coalition, of which Virginia Maddox is a charter member. The only person unaware of the sheer numbers of problems Susan faces is her mother. Maggie Dalton suffered a stroke only a short time before Brian took off with Jessica Beecher, Halís wife. Brian had promised to help her with her mother, get her into a rehabilitation center for the therapy she needed, but apparently, running away with the bankerís wife was more important. He left Susan hurting and his vindictive mother drowning her in suspicion. Susan has to try to find her equilibrium and fend for herself, without a job, without support, and if the recent break-in and fire at her house is an indication, without protectionÖ Only the slim hope remains, that Brianís brother Luke can help her. The question is, will he?
Luke was not prepared for the pain he felt at the circumstances in which he found Susan, even though he knows she was hurt badly at his brotherís desertion. He is afraid for her, but in addition, the feelings that originally drove him from his hometown havenít abated over all these years. There was something in their past, that night under a star-spangled west Texas sky when he had realized his dream, where he had made love to Susan, and he promised himself one day she would be his. Those memories were very special to Luke Maddox, but circumstances being what they were, he never got the chance to act or fulfill his desires. Back then his dreams had been blown out of the water when Susan had married Brian. Luke still blamed himself for not stepping forward and letting her know how he felt, but at seventeen, he had been afraid of rejection, and the reluctance of Susan to speak to him after that glorious night under a star studded sky led to feelings of guilt. There were things not said on both sides, he is sure, but that is past. He is determined to find out the truth behind his brotherís disappearance, and if possible free Susan from the cloud of suspicion his mother has placed over her head.
Susan has come to him for help, and Luke is determined to do what he can to see her safely to the other side of this mess. Deep inside, he is hoping there is a chance for him. He still feels the pull, the love he thought he left behind when he ran from Clementine to Austin, away from the pain of seeing her married to Brian. The intervening years had seen him gain in wealth, skill, prestige, and become a man of influence in his own right, but none of it meant much without Susan. The women he dated had no lasting interest for him, he roamed, remained single, unsettled, and although he has friends, lonely. This subtle threat to Susan, however, is something he cannot ignore. Nothing his mother says can influence him against his decision to help her. He will get to the bottom of the problem, the mystery of the missing lovers. The questions spin in his head when he discovers the data he has recovered from the old broken hard drive of Brianís could be a clue to his brotherís whereabouts. He is aware of the implications of the information he has discovered, but he is not sure how to approach it. He only knows one thing. Susan is in danger, and he has to protect herÖ
I must say welcome to Colleen Thompson, and congratulations on a well deserved lead book for Dorchesterís new Romantic Suspense Line. Fatal Error is a brilliantly told story of murder, obsession, and love that will set your heart to pounding and your toes to tingling. We meet our hero and heroine in a tricky situation, the ex-lovers brought together over the malfunctioning and replaced hard drive component of a confiscated computer. The sudden disappearance of Susanís husband has cast suspicion on her aided by a mother-in-lawís vicious hatred. Luke has always has a bad-boy reputation, and was held in contempt by his mother. If he had towed the line, gone by the family book, he may have had a chance, but Luke was not one to conform. Determined to make his own way, he left home when Susan marries his brother, Brian, and proceeded to make himself rich on his own terms. Now his skills in electronic security will come in handy as he works with Susan to find his missing brother.
Fatal Erroris an unforgettable book in the realm of Romantic Suspense. I find I was captivated from the first, and couldnít put the story down. The troubles that Susan finds herself in are only compounded by a stalker she is not aware of, but who causes her some additional fear when things disappear, like her dog Peavy, then the reappearance of his collar with her husbandís wedding band attached. This is also a distraction from the main problem, as it constantly throws kinks into the carefully thought logic as Luke tries to help her sort things out. The problems escalate as she struggles with the censure of the town, fights for her job, and fights against the attraction she still feels for her husbandís younger brother. As the tale unravels, Fatal Error is a full-bodied tale that takes you deep into the plots, deceit, and the danger spurred by hatred, greed, vengeance, and twisted desire. The question remains as to whether Susan and Luke will find the truth, but soon switches to whether Susan herself, will survive. Fatal Error will be available from Dorchesterís Leisure Books on November 2, 2004, and if you like romantic suspense, it is one I can definitely recommend. If you have never tried it, keep your eyes open for Fatal Error by Colleen Thompson. It will be a great introduction to the genre.
Yours in good reading,