It’s simply not possible to have a section called Oldie but Goodie without a novel by Nora Roberts. She has written novels on almost any sub-genre and one of her very best -in my opinion- is Carnal Innocence a Romantic Suspense novel.
I think that I enjoyed everything about this novel, the heroine is very likeable, the hero is one of my favourites of all times –I need and exact replica for me, please God!-. Then there is the southern accent, the dialogues are so good that you practically can hear them talking –and I read the novel, it wasn’t an audiobook- . The mystery of the plot was insane and the writing was five-stars. In sum, Carnal Innocence has all the elements to be in our books’ Olympus.
Innocence is a little nondescript and uneventfully town in Mississippi. Like in a lot of these towns deep in the south everyone knows each other, there is a strong sense of community -with some traces of racism-, and an old family, the Longstreets, owns half of the town. Everything is quite normal until the mutilated bodies of local women start to show up floating in the river. At first the police think the killer is an outsider, but when more bodies are discovered the FBI is called and the whole town starts looking for the killer among its own people.
Our heroine arrives to Innocence before all the fuss about the killings starts, but only for a couple of days. She is a world famous Violinist that after an emotional breakdown went to her grandparents’ town in search for some peace. Instead she found a chilling body in the pond around her backyard. Needless to say Caroline is shocked and scared, but her neighbours are there for her to reassure her and show her all the warmth that was lacking in her life, so she decides to buy herself a dog and stay in town.
One of her neighbours happens to be our hero; the first time that they met they instantly dislike each other, but under the new extenuating circumstances they form an alliance and start coming together. Caroline is aware of the sexual tension between them but after an awful relationship with her ex-lover she is wary about Tucker’s intention. And well, there is this pesky little thing about Tucker’s reputation.
Tucker comes from a very dysfunctional family, the Longstreet. He is the second of three brothers; Max, the oldest, is a mean drunk and Josie has slept her way around town. Tucker is a laidback kind of man who loves to spend time in his hammock and deal with business at his own pace. His easygoing character and handsomeness makes him an asset with women and he is famous in town for his aversion to commitment. Everything changes when he meets Caro and realises that she is different, but the change couldn’t have come in a worst time: he is the prime suspect in the murders of all these women.
Caro, however, follows her heart and decides to trust Tucker. Is then when we discover what a truly gentleman Tucker is. His disinterest is a façade, behind it all there is a hard worker, wholehearted man that loves his family, friends and town with everything that he has. He is all that Caro needs to find the will to choose what path to take in her career and her life. Their characters come together like they were meant to each other and I would love to know what has happened with them after 15 years of being together.
The ending comes with the identity of the killer. At that point I was sure that I knew who it was and was devastated by it. But Nora gave an unexpected twist that made all the pieces click together.
As you can expect, I’m giving this book a straight 5; for me is one of Nora Robert’s best books.
Review by Marie
In the small town of Innocence, Mississippi, days are long, nights are fragrant, and secrets are hard to keep. But when a brutal killer starts claiming the lives of the town's most attractive women, lifelong neighbors are forced to wonder if the culprit is a stranger lurking in the bayou...or someone right next door.
Burned out by a whirlwind career, world-famous concert violinist Caroline Waverly arrives in Innocence looking for a little peace and some time to think. She hopes that a stay at her late grandmother's house the one with a covered porch just made for soft summer nights will provide the tranquillity she needs.But Innocence has something else to offer Caroline: handsome, charming Tucker Longstreet.
Tucker is known for keeping his romances short and shallow. But one look at Caroline, and Tucker realizes that she is unlike any other woman he's met. The coolly reserved Caroline feels an unexpected thrill at his ardent advances. But when she discovers a third murder victim in the murky waters behind her home, her summer liaison threatens to become much more. Because there's just one small problem with her new romance: Tucker is the leading suspect in the killings.
Bantam, April 1st 2000 (First published in 1992)