Arms of a Stranger
By Roberta Austin
Feb 4, 2008 - 4:05:36 AM

Six months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Simone Ladner is back home in Biloxi, Mississippi helping her family rebuild their homes and their lives. Simone sold her share of a restaurant in New York City to finance building materials. Fortunately, volunteer labor has been a huge help getting her grandmother's home livable again. Keithen Knight is one of the volunteers whom Simone meets when she is dirty and dusty from work. Keithen is a wealthy businessman, but has been drawn to the Gulf Coast and its need for workers as well as money. Keithen is not afraid of hard work. When he first meets Simone, he can see past the grime and glimpses a beautiful, dedicated woman.

Simone and Keithen are almost instantly attracted to each other, but they are afraid to get too close. Keithen has had plenty of women, but mainly as part of the social life that goes with being a successful businessman. He has a life and business he will have to return to in San Francisco. Simone is nervous about Keithen's wealth and her lack of romantic experience. Underlying all these issues are the facts Simone is black and Keithen is white, and whether their respective families will be able to accept a long-term relationship between the two.

Simone is a woman who is strong and competent, but has put love and passion on the back burner while she pursues other dreams. With the last name of Knight, Keithen is the perfect alpha hero. He is able to come to grips with the things that have held him back emotionally. The author does a good job in developing secondary characters, especially Keithen's brother who has to deal with prejudices on several levels. The love of family places as strong a role as romantic love in the storyline.

This is my first book by Ms. Carmichael and I was captivated by the way she wove the love story of a mixed race couple into real life events. The love scenes were steamy and the emotional pull of the plot was totally satisfying. This book is bound to resonate with contemporary romance readers.

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