Here, as in Small Sacrifices (1987), Rule (If You Really Loved Me, 1991, etc.) recreates the compelling story of a woman hellbent on gratification and devoid of conscience. No one is allowed to hinder Patricia Allanson's determination to become a mid-20th-century Scarlett O'Hara, complete with a heavily mortgaged Tara and an adoring Rhett. Raised by her socially ambitious mother and spit-and-polish Army colonel stepfather, ""Pat"" demands constant attention and unqualified love. Married early to an Army sergeant by whom she has three children, she eventually tires of her GI existence and sets off to find wealth and excitement. Pat soon gets engaged to Tom Allanson, a gentle giant six years her junior; at their wedding, the couple are dressed as Margaret Mitchell's hero and heroine. Tom's family disapproves of his new wife's flamboyant ways, and the situation between his family and hers--exacerbated by Pat's unsubstantiated complaints of sexual harassment by her father-in-law--becomes increasingly violent until the elder Allansons are murdered and Tom is accused of the killings. Pat insists on directing the defense; Tom is convicted and sentenced to life. Pat then turns her attention to Tom's remaining family, ingratiating herself with his invalid grandparents. When she's certain that their wills name her as a major beneficiary, she begins lacing their food with arsenic. But before she can kill them, she's caught--and does eight years for attempted murder. Released and apparently reformed, she's hired as a practical nurse by a rich Atlanta couple. The aged pair soon sickens; the husband dies, and Pat is convicted of attempted murder and theft. Today, she's serving time. Rule climaxes her narrative with a moving interview with the now-released Tom, and with stunning suggestions of how Pat engineered the killing of her husband's parents. A headlong plunge into the depths of a sociopathic mind, told with a master's hand.