Eva Rayburn is six months out of prison after serving ten years for the manslaughter of Josiah Cross, a sicko who raped her and branded her with a four-point star. Josiah was from a rich family, the patriarch of which basically railroaded her and the police into making her admit to the death. In actuality, Eva cannot remember killing Josiah.
The past comes back to haunt her when the sorority sisters who testified against her all that time ago begin to start dying, their bodies discovered with four-point star brands. Detective Deacon Garrison is on the case, and eventually discovers the link between the current murders and Eva's past. Of course, this being a romantic suspense novel, he begins to fall for the woman he's not sure he can trust.
While Mary Burton does tick off a lot of the requisite cliches for a romantic suspense novel, there's more here to enjoy than to pick apart. She has a good handle on plotting, suspense and characterisation. Both our leads have tortured pasts - Eva with the whole convicted felon thing and Deacon with his guilt over being unable to "save" his sister or his wife (his sister had cystic fibrosis and his wife committed suicide). Deacon does threaten to become the dreaded melodramatic alpha-male, but he's likeable enough and at least has two brain cells to rub together. Eva's "I don't need your charity" attitude gets quite grating at times, but she comes across as a believable representation of somebody who has had to weather a lot of heavy stuff in a short life span.
There's no denying a few pages could be shorn off this thing, but that's more to do with a couple of unnecessary subplots - for example, a petty thief who witnesses one of the crimes. I prefer that to Karen Rose-style endless navel-gazing about falling in love with the wrong man/woman. Eva and Deacon fancy each other, but don't go on and on about it. The plot is surprisingly complex for a romantic thriller of this sort, and delivers some genuinely clever plot twists late in the proceedings. I'm not familiar with much of Burton's work, but if this novel is any indication, she's sitting at the front of the romantic suspense pack.