Father Thomas Madden sat in a hot confessional booth, ready to give up for the lack of turn up when someone slips in at the last minute. This man confesses that he's about to murder someone... and asks Father Tom for absolution for a murder he will commit. Although the confessee gives Father Tom his permission to tell anyone what he's about to do, Father Tom, against his moral instincts, persists on keeping the integrity of the confessional by trying to help the man on his own, rather than turn him in to the police. However, it all changes when the would be murderer reveals his next victim... Father Tom's sister, Laurant Madden.
Father Tom goes stir crazy and contacts the police, as well as his best friend, Nick Buchanan, who is an FBI agent. Nick, who was supposed to go on a vacation, readily steps in to help his childhood friend. He enlists the force of the FBI to protect Father Tom and his sister - even going so far as to personally see to Laurant's welfare by sticking to her 24/7.
Laurant was raised in Europe and, by some freakish sort of fate, has been long separated from her brother - but they saw each other every year all throughout their youth, traveling to and from the United States and Switzerland, where she was boarded in an all girl school. As soon as she reached majority, however, she hightailed it to the United States and settled in a small town to be near her brother. A sophisticate with a French accent, Nick wonders what appeal Laurant sees in small town living, since she refuses to move from her house to another undisclosed location while the murderer is on the loose.
Nick, of course, is instantly attracted to her but contains himself with a constant reminder that Laurant is his best friend's younger sister. It would somehow be a crime that might eventually ruin his long time friendship with Father Tom if things didn't work out with Laurant - and he's positive that it wouldn't, considering his past history with relationships. However, it gets harder and harder to resist Laurant when they are posing as an affianced couple in order to draw the murderer out.
Heartbreaker is one of the reasons why Julie Garwood is one of the beloved authors in the romance genre! If you're expecting an honest-to-goodness murder mystery, you can just forget it! This story is pure romance between Nick and Laurant (who is often called by the local malicious gossip as Lauren or Laura!), getting to know one another during their "confinement" while trying to catch Laurant's would be killer. Along the way they discover a few nasty truths about the town locals that throws them (and the reader!) off the killer's trail. We get to know Laurant and Nick as individuals as well as a couple, and Ms. Garwood is adept in dropping teasers about the characters that makes the reader eager to turn the pages for the eventual revelations.
Since the main plot is the romance between Nick and Laurant, I was totally unconcerned about the murderer, even as he hovers throughout the story. It doesn't ruin my enjoyment and, at times, I didn't really care to guess as to who it was - I was entertained enough by Laurant and Nick, as well as Father Tom and Nick's colleague/cohort, Noah, whom I'd really like to see in his own story. However, there were some facts that bothered me about Nick - such as why he speaks fluent French when he's never been outside the United States because of his fear of flying. It's minor but it sounds very convenient given the fact that Laurant's first language is French.
I can't give Heartbreaker any less than a 5-star rating - it's engrossing and witty, and, most significantly, a superb romance.