Joan Johnston





Pocket Star, February 2004 paperback
Reviewed by Sissy Jacobson

Contemporary Romantic Suspense

Luke Creed has some tough decisions to make. For six years he has sacrificed everything in his bid for partnership in DeWitt & Blackthorne, the prestigious Houston based law firm. Now with the coveted partnership within reach, he is transferred to a new division, and handed a case defending one of the firm's major clients. Hyland Pharmaceuticals manufactures the drug D-Free, an oral medication for Type 1 Diabetes. His new boss, Grayson Choat, AKA The Dragon Lady, makes it plain she wants this lawsuit quietly settled out of court. Complicating matters, Luke comes face to face with the only woman he ever loved, his high school sweetheart, Amy Hazeltine Nash, who is representing a woman whose daughter died as a result of taking D-Free. Luke had no idea that Amy was divorced and back in Houston.

As Amy and Luke meet to discuss the case, Luke learns of a number of deaths that have been attributed to D-Free, but were covered up by DeWitt & Blackthorne, with assurance from Hyland Pharmaceuticals that the drug is safe. When Luke learns his eleven-year-old daughter Brynne is on the medication, and his ex-wife refuses to take her off without cold, hard facts, the investigation becomes personal. Luke and Amy secretly join forces to find the truth: Is D-Free really safe, or has someone tampered with the results of the clinical trials? Will Luke put Brynne back on insulin against her will and choose the partnership? Or will he risk the partnership in order to uncover the truth about D-Free? Is Luke willing to pay THE PRICE? When people close to the investigation begin dying due to "accidental" causes, and Luke is almost killed by a hit and run driver while jogging, the stakes rapidly increase.

Until THE PRICE, THE LONER was my favorite of the Bitter Creek series by Joan Johnston. Now I have two favorites. In THE PRICE, Luke Creed is a high powered, respected attorney who has worked hard to prove to Jackson Blackthorne that he can make it on his own. He has changed from a hotheaded young man into a model citizen and loving, responsible father to his two daughters, Brynne and Midge, whom he adores.

THE PRICE is a book that really moves. It is edge-of-the-seat suspense along with the continuing feud between the Blackthorns and Creeds. While romance between Luke and Amy is part of the story, suspense plays an equal role. I put everything aside and read this book from start to finish with very little break. I could not put it down. THE LONER and THE PRICE are the best books I've read by Joan Johnston, and I've read and re-read most of her work. The plot is based in reality, and the narration, characterization, and dialogue are among the best you'll find anywhere. We also meet an important new character, Drew DeWitt, who is Luke's best friend. His story is coming soon in THE RIVALS. I do hope Ms. Johnston gives Clay Blackthorne a story one of these days.


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