Robards, Karen 1954–

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Robards, Karen 1954–


Born August 24, 1954, in Louisville, KY; daughter of Walter L. (an orthodontist) and Sally Johnson; married Douglas J. Robards (a marketing executive), January 21, 1977; children: three sons. Education: University of Kentucky, B.A., 1976, graduate study, 1976-79.


Home—Louisville, KY. Agent—Robert Gottlieb, Trident Media Group, 41 Madison Ave., 36th Fl., New York, NY 10010. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer and novelist.


Authors League of America, Romance Writers of America, Mensa.


Best new contemporary writer of 1985, Romantic Times, and Silver Certificate Award, Affaire de Coeur, 1986, for To Love a Man; Reviewers Choice Award, Romantic Times, 1986, for Wild Orchids; Silver Pen Award, Affaire de Coeur, 1986; Gold Certificate Award, Affaire de Coeur, 1986, for Dark Torment, and 1987, for Loving Julia.



Forbidden Love, Leisure Books (Norwalk, CT), 1983.

Amanda Rose, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1984.

To Love a Man, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1985.

Dark Torment, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1985.

Wild Orchids, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1986.

Loving Julia, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1986.

Night Magic, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1988.

Dark of the Moon, Avon (New York, NY), 1988.

Desire in the Sun, Avon (New York, NY), 1988.

Tiger's Eye, Avon (New York, NY), 1989.

Morning Song, Avon (New York, NY), 1990.

Green Eyes, Avon (New York, NY), 1991.

This Side of Heaven, Dell (New York, NY), 1991.

Nobody's Angel, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1992.

One Summer, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1993.

Maggy's Child, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1994.

Walking after Midnight, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1995.

Hunter's Moon, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1996.

Heartbreaker, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1997.

The Senator's Wife, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1998.

The Midnight Hour, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1999.

Ghost Moon, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2000.

Paradise County, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2000.

To Trust a Stranger, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2001.

(With others) Wait until Dark, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Beachcomber, Thorndike Press (Waterville, ME), 2003.

Whispers at Midnight, Atria (New York, NY), 2003.

Bait, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2004.

Superstition, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2005.

Vanished, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2006.

Obsession, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2007.

Guilty, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2008.


Island Flame, Leisure Books (Norwalk, CT), 1981.

Sea Fire, Leisure Books (Norwalk, CT), 1982.


Scandalous, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Irresistible, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

Also author of Shameless, c. 2008.


Karen Robards is the author of numerous novels that combine the elements of romance, mystery, and suspense. A Publishers Weekly contributor called Robards a "doyenne of the bestseller lists" for her fast-paced romantic adventures. Typically Robards blends a story of conventional family problems—divorce, troubled teens, needy children—with gothic or intrigue-laden plot devices. In Heartbreaker, for instance, what begins as a woman chaperoning a high school horseback riding trip becomes a tale of doomsday cultists and nuclear espionage. The Midnight Hour and Ghost Moon feature divorced heroines who must protect their daughters from murderous stalkers. In a Booklist review of Ghost Moon, Diana Tixier Herald commended Robards for "sizzling romance" and "the heart-thumping suspense that thrust her onto the best-seller lists." Ann Bouricius, in a Booklist review of The Midnight Hour, wrote that the author writes with "an enjoyably light and airy, sensual yet not explicit prose style."

In Paradise County, Alexandra Haywood journeys to her father's horse farm in Kentucky to handle his estate after his apparent suicide. While there, she finds that her half-sister has been expelled from school, her fiancé has married someone else, the farm manager cannot be fired, and her father died broke. Meanwhile, a serial killer has chosen her as his next victim. Elizabeth Mellett, reviewing the book for the Library Journal, noted that although many of the scenes are "gruesome," Robards's book is a "fast-paced, suspenseful novel that less squeamish fans of romantic suspense should enjoy." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that readers "will cheer and care for her protagonists."

Irresistible, the second book in the "Burning Sisters" series, is another novel full of suspense and romance, taking place in nineteenth-century Europe instead of rural Kentucky. English spy Hugh Battancourt has mistakenly kidnapped innocent Claire Banning and accused her of spying for the French. Claire, meanwhile, has been struggling with an unhappy marriage. Hugh and Claire escape French adversaries while determining where Claire's true loyalties lie, and the two end up falling in love during the whole ordeal. Like Robards's previous novels, Irresistible garnered positive reviews overall. Many readers enjoyed the book's fast pace and imaginative storyline. Robards's novel is "filled with adventure and unforgettable characters," wrote Patty Engelmann in a review for Booklist. Others found the author's combination of action and romance made the novel an easy and enjoyable book to read. Irresistible is "full of swashbuckling suspense and sexual sparks," noted one Publishers Weekly contributor. The other books in the series include Scandalous and Shameless.

In her 2003 novel, Whispers at Midnight, Robards tells the story of Carly Linton, a recent divorcée whose grandmother has just died and left her an old Southern mansion. When Carly arrives in the tiny town of Benton, Georgia, to turn the place into a bed and breakfast, she thinks that someone may be stalking her. Carly's former lover and town sheriff, Matt Converse, attempts to protect her, and the two embark on an awkward romance as they try to determine who is trying to harm Carly. Readers again reacted positively to Robards's latest novel, citing her skills as a writer and her ability to draw readers into her stories. "Robards is a lively storyteller," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. For others, it was the story's passionate passages that made it a compelling read. Whispers at Midnight is full of "descriptive sexual tension," observed Jodi L. Israel in a review for the Library Journal.

Robards's next novel, Bait, features Maddie Fitzgerald, a beautiful advertising executive who is the possible target of a serial killer. Sam McCabe, the FBI agent working on the case, tries to get Maddie to help him catch the killer, but Maddie is more concerned about winning a high-cost account to save her agency from bankruptcy. Sam wears her down, however, and when the two begin spending a lot of time together, romantic sparks fly. The novel has both the action and romance that Robards's stories are known for, with the addition of a sense of humor that reviewers enjoyed. "Regular infusions of humor keep the story bouncing," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. Critics cited the novel's dynamic and adventure-filled plot as one of the highlights of the book. Bait is a "fast-paced story," wrote Library Journal contributor Israel.

Robards followed up Bait with 2005's Superstition. Murder again plays a part as television reporter Nicole Sullivan investigates the murder of a teenage girl and the disappearance of two of her close friends on Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Police chief Joe Franconi does not like Nicole investigating the crime, and the two end up quarreling over who should be involved in the investigation. While covering this gruesome case, Nicole begins to see ghosts, and Joe is haunted by the memory of a former colleague. In spite of these adverse conditions, Joe and Nicole find comfort in each other and a romance develops. Superstition was well received by readers and critics alike. Robards's novel is "a classic edge-of-the-seat read," wrote Booklist contributor Engelmann. While this book contained the author's tried and true combination of romance and adventure, a number of readers also enjoyed the paranormal aspect of the novel as well. It contains "supernatural elements that add an extra dimension to the story line," noted one MBR Bookwatch contributor.

In Obsession, Robards tells the story of Katherine Lawrence, who faces an identity crisis after witnessing masked men kill her friend. They also beat Katherine mercilessly as they tried to get her to reveal the combination to the safe in her home. In the hospital, Katherine finds that she has trouble recalling who she is, and she doesn't even recognized herself in the mirror. Yet her boss and boyfriend, Ed Barnes, who is deputy director of operations at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), seems to think that she looks the same.

Commenting on the character of Katherine in an interview for the Web site, Robards notes: "The thing that I found fascinating as I was writing Obsession was the concept that the core of a person's identity—who he or she is inside—never really changes. Katherine's physical appearance changes drastically. The environment in which she finds herself feels strange and alien. Her relationships don't ring true to her, and her memory is spotty at best. Yet the inner core of her personality—her strength, her resourcefulness, her intelligence—remains intact."

After the beating, Katherine was brought to the hospital by Dr. Dan Howard. She keeps thinking she knows him from somewhere but has no idea if the two have really met before. Katherine and Dan are attracted to each other, but Katherine is hesitant because she has ominous feelings about Dan. Soon Katherine is on the run and has no idea whom she can trust. "While Obsession is a breathless read, it is never over the top," wrote Jen Krieger in a review for the Web site. "The violence is wince-worthy but never unnecessarily gory, and the romance is sexy but never sordid." Writing for Booklist, Patty Engelmann noted: "With vibrant characters and a great plot, this is one of best-selling Robards' best."

The author's next novel, Guilty, features Kate White, an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia. While she is in a courtroom prosecuting a case, her cell phone rings, which seems to trigger the defendant to pull out a gun and kill the judge. Kate is taken hostage but escapes by killing the defendant. However, a detective named Tom Braga is suspicious and believes that Kate, who has a troubled past of her own, is hiding something and that she actually did not kill the man who abducted her. In the meantime, Kate's untoward past seems to be returning. Someone tries to break into her house and she discovers that she is being followed, which increases Kate's concerns not only over her own safety but also the safety of her son, Ben.

"The story line is fast-paced from the moment Kate's cellphone rings … and never slows down until the final biting confrontation," wrote Harriet Klausner in a review for the Best Reviews Web site. Calling Guilty "scintillating," a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the author "shows her flair for coupling first-rate suspense with multidimensional characters."

Robards received her first book contract while a law school student. She never became an attorney, opting instead to write fiction. Her output has been prolific, even by the standards of her genre. She releases at least one novel every year and prefers to write two in that time span. "Once you've written quite a few books you find sometimes that people lose their edge," she said in an interview for the January magazine Web site. "And the way I feel about it is I do my best every time. If I feel like I'm calling it in or something I'll just stop. I won't do it. Because I love what I do … I've been doing it since I was an adult. It gets my all."

Robards once told CA: "I have always been a writer. My first ‘book,’ written and illustrated at age five, was a present to my grandmother. During elementary school, I was editor and chief reporter for our school paper. I worked on newspapers and yearbooks throughout high school and college. My first ‘big’ sale, at age eighteen, was to Reader's Digest for ‘Life in These United States,’ and it showed me that what I did as automatically as breathing might also be a way to earn a living. But I don't write for money. (Eating is a fringe benefit, not the primary purpose of what I do.) I write because, through some strange quirk of nature, I cannot help myself."



Booklist, April 1, 1992, Martin Brady, review of Nobody's Angel, p. 1413; February 15, 1993, Denise Perry Donavin, review of One Summer, p. 1040; March 1, 1994, Melanie Duncan, review of Maggy's Child, p. 1181; November 15, 1994, Denise Perry Donavin, review of Walking after Midnight, p. 556; November 1, 1995, Kathleen Hughes, review of Hunter's Moon, p. 435; November 1, 1996, Donna Seaman, review of Heartbreaker, p. 459; December 1, 1998, Ann Bouricius, review of The Midnight Hour, p. 620; June 1, 1999, review of Maggy's Child, p. 1797; December 15, 1999, Diana Tixier Herald, review of Ghost Moon, p. 739; September 1, 2000, Diana Tixier Herald, review of Paradise County, p. 7; October 1, 2000, Whitney Scott, review of Ghost Moon, p. 368; September 15, 2002, Jodi L. Israel, review of To Trust a Stranger, p. 110, Patty Engelmann, review of Irresistible, p. 217, and Candace Smith, review of To Trust a Stranger, p. 249; April 15, 2005, Patty Engelmann, review of Superstition, p. 1436; February 15, 2007, Patty Engelmann, review of Obsession, p. 5; March 15, 2008, Patty Engelmann, review of Guilty, p. 34.

Drood Review of Mystery, September, 2000, review of Paradise County, p. 19.

Library Journal, February 1, 1993, Elizabeth Mellett, review of One Summer, p. 113; February 1, 1994, Kimberly Martin, review of Maggy's Child, p. 113; December, 1994, Rebecca S. Kelm, review of Walking after Midnight, p. 134; August, 1995, Jodi L. Israel, review of Walking after Midnight, p. 138; November 15, 1995, Dawn L. Anderson, review of Hunter's Moon, p. 100; January, 1998, Elizabeth Mellett, review of The Senator's Wife, p. 144; February 1, 2000, Elizabeth Mellett, review of Ghost Moon, p. 119; May 1, 2000, Jodi L. Israel, review of The Midnight Hour, p. 170; November 15, 2000, Elizabeth Mellett, review of Paradise County, p. 98; May 15, 2001, Kristin Ramsdell, review of Wait until Dark, p. 107; July, 2003, Jodi L. Israel, review of Whispers at Midnight, p. 146; July 1, 2005, Jodi L. Israel, review of Bait, p. 132.

MBR Bookwatch, April, 2005, review of Superstition.

Publishers Weekly, March 25, 1988, Penny Kaganoff, review of Dark of the Moon, p. 60; October 14, 1988, Penny Kaganoff, review of Desire in the Sun, p. 68; March 31, 1989, Penny Kaganoff, review of Tiger's Eye, p. 54; November 24, 1989, Penny Kaganoff, review of Morning Song, p. 67; December 14, 1990, Penny Kaganoff, review of Green Eyes, p. 64; March 23, 1992, review of Nobody's Angel, p. 60; December 28, 1992, review of One Summer, p. 58; December 13, 1993, review of Maggy's Child, p. 62; December 19, 1994, review of Walking after Midnight, p. 46; October 16, 1995, review of Walking after Midnight, p. 56; October 23, 1995, review of Hunter's Moon, p. 58; November 11, 1996, review of Heartbreaker, p. 57; December 8, 1997, review of The Senator's Wife, p. 54; November 30, 1998, review of The Midnight Hour, p. 51; January 10, 2000, review of Ghost Moon, p. 45; September 18, 2000, review of Paradise County, p. 84; July 29, 2002, review of Irresistible, p. 60; January 13, 2003, review of Whispers at Midnight, p. 43; August 25, 2003, Daisy Maryles, "Heating up the Beaches," review of Beachcomber, p. 16; October 6, 2003, review of Beachcomber, p. 28; July 12, 2004, review of Bait, p. 46; February 20, 2006, review of Vanished, p. 133; February 26, 2007, review of Obsession, p. 58; February 11, 2008, review of Guilty, p. 49.

State, April 11, 2007, Lezlie Patterson, "Lots of Suspense—but Not Much Romance—in Obsession."

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 27, 1994, review of Maggy's Child, p. 6.


Best Reviews, (May 27, 2007) Harriet Klausner, review of Obsession; (May 25, 2008), Harriet Klausner, review of Guilty., (April 13, 2007),"Interview"; (April 1, 2008), "A Message from Karen Robards"; (August 1, 2008), Jen Krieger, review of Obsession; Terry Miller Shannon, review of Guilty; (August 4, 2008), "Interview."

January, (March 29, 2006), Linda Richards, "Karen Robards: The Romance Writer and Her Crystal Ball."

Karen Robards Home Page, (March 29, 2006).

Romantic Times Online, (August 1, 2008), Jill M. Smith, reviews of Obsession and Guilty.

Time Warner Bookmark, (March 29, 2006), biographical information about Karen Robards.