ileen Goudge first broke into publishing when she was asked to launch the Sweet Valley High series, which turned into a phenomenally successful line of teen romances. Later, she branched out on her own and wound up writing seven best-selling mainstream novels, including One Last Dance and Garden of Lies. Now the popular women's fiction writer returns with Stranger in Paradise, another fast-paced tale that mixes a bit of romance with a contemporary family crisis.

Nestled in a peaceful valley outside Santa Barbara is the little town of Carson Springs. An idyllic community with sun-kissed hills and lush orange groves, it has a magical appeal to residents and tourists alike. It's in this glorious setting that Goudge launches the first in a new trilogy of Carson Springs novels. The story centers on Samantha Kiley and her adult daughters, Alice and Laura. Each woman is facing a turning point in life, and the interaction between the trio is typical mother-daughter antagonism.

Laura, the eldest daughter and a recent divorcŽe, helps her mother run the family's gift shop. Alice, a television producer, has just married her over-50 boss, and finds herself questioning the wisdom of marrying an older man, as well as their mutual decision not to have children. Meanwhile the daughters are grousing over their mother Samantha's not-so secret affair with a younger man. When Sam gets pregnant, the story really gets interesting as her condition sparks the disapproval of the small town.

And what's a good romance without a little suspense to add some spice? This paradise has its very own malevolent murderer on the loose, and the tranquil little village can't quite rest until the culprit is caught.

Goudge's merry mix of secondary characters completes the package. Sam's best friend and former nun Gerry Fitzgerald, good-looking ranch hand Hector and the colorful residents of Carson Springs add plenty of additional flavor. Add the bevy of nuns at the Our Lady of The Wayside convent, and their Blessed Bee honey business, and you have enough craziness to keep the Hail Mary's coming.

Stranger in Paradise is a page-turning drama that delivers a little something for everyone romance, intrigue, humor, all brought together in a thoroughly engaging story. Just right for that perfect summer day's read.

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