Thomas, author of last year's robust period-romance The White Dove, offers a smaller, knottier sort-of romance, set in 1980's London. Annie, your run-of-the-mill capable housewife, ducks out for Christmas shopping one snowy morning. A terrorist bomb intrudes, and she finds herself trapped in the rubble of a caved-in department store, with a man next to her, also alive. Both seriously wounded, they hold hands and ""just talk""--about Steve's unhappy childhood, failed marriage and near-brilliant career; about the ""safe"" choice that led Annie into her cozy family life. Eventually they're rescued; as they recover, they remain emotionally entwined. Annie's underbrewed husband Martin pales in comparison with her friend from being buried alive; Steve, once the inveterate womanizer, is clamoring--with born-again fervor--for Annie to leave hubby and kids and come alive with him. Will Mom of the Year chuck her young boys, and take the romantic risk she passed on years earlier?. Thomas writes with liveliness and an eye for telling detail. Annie and Steve's vigil down-under is full of promise: the two characters are already mature, deep-seeing; their mutual attraction not just circumstantial. But Annie--above-ground--vacillates rather hysterically, and much of the book's tight control is dissipated by her between-loyalties flailing. Still: at once a page-turner romance and a canny rejection of romantic easy answers, Strangers bristles with intelligence, without forgoing emotional resonance.