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Archive for the ‘Romantic Suspense’ Category

Copyright: 2001

Pages: 352 (hardcover edition)

Setting/Type: Contemporary/Romantic Suspense

Grade: A+

Jaine Bright and three close friends share dinner one night and during casual conversation, create a list of qualifications for Mr Perfect–some logical, some hilariously funny, some racy. Within days, their tongue-in-cheek wish list of attributes for the perfect man has been leaked to the press and the resultant publicity is overwhelming. Coworkers, TV crews and reporters barrage the quartet with comments and criticism.

As if Jaine doesn’t have enough to cope with, she has a new neighbour who she suspects is a criminal. She’s relieved to learn that her neighbour is really an undercover cop, but she’s still wary–because smart, sexy Sam Donovan handles her sharp witticisms with easy humour, and Jaine suspects that he may threaten her heart. What Jaine doesn’t know is that she’s about to need Sam desperately for something other than romance because her circle of friends is in big trouble. Unfortunately, that list of qualifications for Mr Perfect has touched off a madman’s rage. All of their lives are threatened and some of them are going to die, maybe all of them, if Sam can’t stop the unknown killer.

Ok, everybody who knows me, knows I am sucker for nice covers .. but that also goes in reverse. Whoever was payed to design the cover of the UK hardcover edition should re-consider his job. That cover is ATROCIOUS!

Mr Perfect is another feel well and cozy re-read book from my shelf (in fact, I DO have a nicer copy!). I have read this book countless times and everytime I do so again I feel totally satisfied and know why I stick to Howard, even though her newer books weren’t among my favorites.

Our heroine is mouthy Jaine Bright, an accountant who meets once a week with three other friends from work for a nice get-together. One evening they start fooling around and write down what makes a man Mr Perfect. Coming up with some serious and solid points but also some smart-ass comments about his endowments and horizontal abilities. Somehow from there everything snowballs into a big fucked-up mess. From the company newsletter, to the Internet and local and national media, everybody becomes interested in this piece of slightly booze-induced female wisdom.

Simultaneously Jaine has to fight on a different front, namely with her next door neighbour whom she thinks to be a cross between a drunk and drug addict. After some hefty and strangely arousing shouting/yelling sessions she finds out Sam is in fact a detective, and is able to arouse her “girly eggs” into a frenzy and her body into a quivering mess. The murder of one of Jaine’s co-workers sets off a race to capture a vicious killer who won’t stop before he has eliminated all involved authors…

Jaine is one fabulous heroine. One of her bad habits is cursing , a mannerism that makes her look totally quirky and funny, especially if you throw in her no bullshit attitude, her affection for racy cars and potent lawn mowers. For me, Jaine is one of the most unique and original heroines out there in Romancelandia. And despite her less than stellar behaviour and smart-ass attitude, or should I say because of it, she has become one of my favorite all-time characters.

Same goes for Mr Gorgeous Sam Donovan. A yummi combination between grumpy (depending on how much sleep he had), charming, exasperating and dangerously sexy. Instead of being a weak and wimpy character like Jaine’s three ex-fiancés were, he has the brain and brawn and the same no BS attitude to take on Jaine and stand up to her. PERRFFFECCT :-)

I remember, Mr Perfect was my very first Howard and even though I consider myself well educated in the villain detecting department (thanks to years of reading Agatha Christies), I couldn’t guess the cuprit. This may be also due to the fact that I was so involved in Jaine’s and Sam’s relationship that I saved my brain cells for “their” parts LOL.

A perfect book, indeed, I think  I will read Open Season, Heart of Fire and Son of the Morning next. Another three fabulous stories from this genie!

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Copyright: 2003

Pages: 416 (paperback edition)

Setting/Type: Contemporary/Romantic Suspense

Grade: B-

When five-thousand-year-old human bones are found at a construction site in the small town of Woodsboro, the news draws archaeologist Callie Dunbrook out of her sabbatical and into a whirlwind of adventure, danger, and romance. While overseeing the dig, she must try to make sense of a cloud of death and misfortune that hangs over the project – fuelling rumours that the site is cursed. She must cope with the presence of her irritating – but irresistible – ex-husband, Jake. Furthermore, when a stranger claims to know a secret about her privileged Boston childhood, she is forced to question her own past as well…

This was one of my less favorite Nora Roberts, however, I couldn’t bring myself to give it a C grade because – as with everyone of her books – the characterization and relationship part was done brilliantly.

When archaeologist Callie is called in as a specialist for a mysterious discovery of human bones she’s not only forced to co-operate with her suddenly appearing ex-husband Jake, but also with some shocking news about her past. One evening a woman appears at the door of her hotel room and tells her she’s her long lost daughter who was kidnapped at the age of three months. When Callie consequently investigates her past, she uncovers a whole black market adoption ring and that her fate was one among many others.

What I didn’t like about this book was the mystery part which was one of the weakest I have ever encountered in a NR novel. I am not a die hard romantic suspense fan but when I do read a book in this genre and ESPECIALLY one from Ms Roberts, I do expect a solid focus on characters and suspense plot. I can’t say that the suspense plot was neglected, au contraire, I was definitely not able to tell who the villain was or guess about what would happen next. However, I was immensely disappointed when the “main” villain (there are more than one) was revealed and how anticlimactic it felt. When I first heard the person’s name I couldn’t even remember who this character was supposed to be how he/she was related with the plot.

What saved the book for me was the relationship part between Callie and Jack, Callie’s adoptive and biological family and how they all coped with the circumstances. Birthright deals exceptionally well with the adoption/kidnapping issue, from the portrayal of both of Callie’s mothers to Callie’s own behaviour and reluctance in accepting another family in her life.

I also developed a weak spot for Jake. Although the ex-husband hero is definitely not favorite type of character, I instantly liked his rakish, charming and intelligent nature and how he decided that it was high time to win Callie back for good. Callie and Jake do form a perfect couple and their happy end gave a good measure of reader’s nirvana to me, compensating for the anticlimactic suspense part.

I am working on Roberts’s backlist, I kind of neglected her romantic suspense books … and that’s a shame!

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Copyright: 1999

Pages: 336 (hardcover edition)

Setting/Type: Contemporary, Paranormal/Romantic Suspense

Grade: A+

Paris Sweeney, who calls herself Sweeney, is living a pared-down existence devoted to painting when she begins to see ghosts. Worse, she starts painting disturbing images while sleepwalking, then wakes with an unnatural, bone-deep chill that can only be dispelled by direct body contact with the unexpected new man in her life–Richard Worth, the soon-to-be ex-husband of the gallery owner who sells Sweeney’s work. Then Sweeney realizes she’s painting the picture of a murder victim, just before the actual crime takes place. Can she stop the killing before it happens? And if not, is she destined to become either the prime suspect or the murderer’s next victim? Howard keeps the suspense streamlined and straightforward, focusing equally on the relationship between the sympathetic Sweeney, whose dreadful growing-up years forced her to become more independent than is good for her, and Richard, whose drive to leave his old life behind matches his determination to make Sweeney part of his future.

After having taken an envious peak on Alex’s last month’s reading list, I decided to catch up with my re-reading project and ordered some of my favorites to my library branch.

Now You See Her being one of them. Sweeney, the heroine, is a quirky, funny, ghost-seeing heroine that strives on painting great pictures and little else. So far she thinks herself lucky never having been involved in any messy relationships or affairs. That changes when she sees one morning a Diet Cola commercial on TV. Shortly after, she also realizes that her gallery owner’s soon-to-be ex-husband is serious hunk material.

Richard Worth is a to die for hero. I would love to swing my magic wand, making him thereby a real and life person with a secondary residence next to my living quarters :-). Richard grew up poorly but with strong ethical values and an unquenchable thirst to make money. He, too, succeeded, more so than he ever thought possible. Now the only thing he wants is to finish off his rotten marriage with Candra and to persuade Sweeney that he is better for her than Easter and Christmas thrown together. When Sweeney starts having problems because of her ghost-induced night-walking drawing sessions, Richard is the man to help her physically and psychically to recover.

Did I mention that I love this book? Linda Howard is one of the few authors that can pull off a near virginal/inexperienced heroine without making her look like a relict from medieval times. Sweeny is an adorable, funky heroine with a strong sense for humour and zero tolerance for bullshit. Richard is the ideal counterpart. Fed up with hypocrisy and sleek and cold New York they make one of those ideal couples whose names and characters you will never forget, even after another 1000 books.

The plot is very simple but well fleshed out, with a strongly and surely distinguished assortment of characters and villains. What makes this book an A+ read for me is less the plot but the individuality and specialness of Sweeny and Richard, one of the most gorgeous couple out there in Romancelandia.

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Copyright: 2005

Pages: 384 (paperback edition)

Setting/Type: Contemporary/Romantic Suspense

Grade: B+

Twenty-five years ago Olivia Sealy was kidnapped for ransom. Today she has no memory of the terrible event, yet an uneasy feeling still haunts her – a fear that is realized when an infant’s skeleton is found and a connection is made to Olivia’s past.
As news of the discovery makes headlines, Olivia and the people close to her suddenly become targets for a murderer bent on revenge. Still stunned by the revelation and its implications, Olivia puts her trust in Trey Bonney, the detective assigned to the case. But neither counts on a madman who may hold the answer to the twenty-five-year-old mystery – a secret someone hoped was buried for good.

Wow, where has this author hidden until now? Why did I only discover her now? This book was simply fantastic. Plot, suspense and characters and an extraordinary villain had me glued to the pages until 3 am!

Olivia has been kidnapped 25 years ago when she was barely two years old. During this event also her parents have been murdered. Today she can’t remember anything about this time, but in a convoluted way she feels guilty for her parents’s murder and her grandfather’s loss.

When a retired house owner discovers a skeleton of a two year old child in a suitcase, immured into the wall of his house, the whole case is unrolled again. One of the leading detectives is Trey Bonney. He and Olivia have a past history, they have been deeply in love during their high school years, yet when Olivia’s grandfather requested their separation, Olivia broke up with Try out of guilt and loyalty to her closest relative. When Olivia and Trey meet again it’s like they have been never separated. Trey forgives her and both know that this time they will finally stand up for their love.

Trey and Olivia are two immensely nice and wonderful characters. Their undying love for each other rings so true, so right it really warmed my heart and made me sigh. No commitment phobia, no single complex, simply true and basic love. Such a wonderful change to all those other relationship problems.

I first thought Olivia’s grandfather is going to be one of those possessive, unbending characters, but no, Marcus Sealy is much more complex than that. He realizes his mistake and becomes deeply reflective about his relationship with Olivia and also tries to mend his long ago mistake.

The suspense plot itself was one of the best I have read in a long time. Fantastic, non-stereotypical and especially unforeseeable, therefore I don’t want to write too much about it in order not to give away any clues. Let me put it this way, the villain in this story is very special … and I can honestly say I have never met quite another one like this person.

Any recommendations? I definitely want to read more from this author who – so I discovered – also goes by the pen name Dinah McCall.

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Copyright: 2007

Pages: 512 (hardback edition)

Setting/Type: Contemporary/Romantic Suspense

Grade: A

COME TO ME

The first victim is found in a snow-covered Philadelphia field. Detective Vito Ciccotelli enlists the aid of archaeologist Sophie Johannsen to determine exactly what lies beneath the frozen ground. Despite years of unearthing things long buried, nothing can prepare Sophie for the matrix of graves dug with chilling precision. The victims buried there haunt her. But the empty graves terrify her-the killer isn’t done yet.

SCREAM FOR ME

He is cold and calculating, the master of a twisted game. Even with Vito and Sophie hot on his trail, he will not stop. One more empty grave must be filled, and one last scream must be heard-the scream of an archaeologist who is too close for comfort and too near to resist…

DIE FOR ME

I am always astonished about what Karen Rose comes up with next. This time she has outdone herself again. The killer is a sadistic SOB that “specializes” in medieval inquisition practices. In order to make figures and scenes of computer games more realistic and alive, he films his victims during their torture and then captures their dying moments in paint.

This time I have definitely reached the limits of my personal comfort zone. Betimes the scenes and ordeals of the victims were described so vividly that I was hugely tempted to skip those pages. I also wondered how far I am willing to go to read a Karen Rose. It’s no secret I adore her, but if her descriptions get any more graphic and horrible, I am tempted to not read her anymore.

Furthermore I always wonder about the imagination of a person and how somebody can COME UP with ideas like that. That’s definitely beyond me and one more reason why I never touch any horror movies and books.

On the other hand, the love-story between Vito and Sophie is so wonderful, romantic and deep-going that it made up for a lot in the “ick”-department. I am always amazed how sexy and deeply erotic Ms Rose’s love scenes are, even though they never cross the border to become real R-rated moments. Sophie is a marvelous heroine with a complicated and tragic past. Because of one mistake she had to fight twice as hardly to get where she is today. Vito has a more out-going personality but he, too, had suffered a great loss in the past and struggles to overcome it. Together they were simply perfect and involved me deeply and wholly in the story.

To sum it up, this book is fantastic and I am glad I read it, despite medieval torture practices and a freaked-villain that nearly made me check my cupboard for spooky ghosts.

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Copyright: 2007

Pages: 320 (hardback edition)

Setting/Type: Contemporary/Romantic Suspense

Grade: B-

A mysterious plane crash . . . a dangerous trek through the Idaho wilderness . . . a smoldering attraction . . . and a deadly game of cat and mouse. In her latest tour de force of romantic suspense, New York Times bestselling author Linda Howard blends these elements into a gripping story that will keep readers breathless – and leave them begging for more. For in Linda Howard’s world, trust can be a weapon, a kiss can be a threat, and intimacy can be deadly.

Bailey Wingate’s scheming adult stepchildren are surprised when their father’s will leaves Bailey in control of their fortune, and war ensues. A year later, while flying from Seattle to Denver in a small plane, Bailey nearly dies herself when the engine sputters – and then fails.

Cam Justice, her sexy Texan pilot, manages to crash-land the aircraft. Stranded in the wilderness, and struggling to douse her feelings for the ruggedly handsome man by her side, Bailey begins to wonder whether this was a mere accident. Sure enough, upon her return to civilization Bailey’s suspicions mount: Who tampered with their plane? Who’s trying to reunite Bailey and her husband in the afterlife? Trusting her life – and heart – to Cam, Bailey must outwit a killer who will stop at nothing to finish the job.

Sexy, suspenseful, and lightning fast, Up Close and Dangerous showcases a beloved author at her dazzling best.

Errrm, I didn’t quite know what to think of Howard’s latest publication. It is definitely better than Cover Of the Night which IMO had a simply ridiculous and unbelievable plot. What I truly enjoyed with this book was the characterization of Bailey and Cam and the chemistry between them. Bailey remembered me of one of my favorite heroines, Paris Saville Sweeney from Now You See Her. Cam has the bold and dangerously sexy flair of Ben Lewis from Heart of Fire, another one of my favorite Howard novels.

 So why did I decide to give this one “only” a B-? Well, mainly because I had the impression that as lovely and entertaining Cam and Bailey were portrayed, they couldn’t reach the original and felt rather like a copy, albeit a good one, straight out from two of my most treasured books. Secondly, as many possibilities as this plot had, it was clear from the beginning who the culprit was. Let’s just say, that Bailey’s two step children are too cartoon-ish and over the top to really take them serious. They are just laughable and therefore devalue the plot quite strongly.

Alltogether it’s an above average read for anyone who want to re-visit Howard’s talent for characterization, but not really something to recommend to a friend who wants to try out this author for the first time.

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