In this episode of the Romantic Suspense Insider Podcast, I’m going to start off looking at what makes a book romantic suspense as opposed to either a straight romance novel or a mystery.
The idea came during a discussion with my sister who is a librarian at our local library. I have been a huge fan of J.D. Robb’s futuristic In Death series for several years. What I found interesting is that the paperback version of these books (by Berkley) all list them as romantic suspense while the library puts the hardbacks in the mystery section. This has been one of my pet-peeves for quite some time. I spend too much time digging through books trying to find a romantic suspense.
I think the main delineation between a mystery and a romantic suspense is the balance between the relationship and the solution. In a mystery, the solving of the crime is paramount over everything else. In a romance novel, we’re looking at the couple pairing up and what’s preventing them from being together. In a romantic suspense, we depend on both of these. The couple must grow together, and their relationship must change as the story goes on. They are kept apart by some force, very likely the mystery that they need to solve. But there is a balance; it’s almost like having 2 plots in the book and both need equal billing.
The Romance Writers of America (RWA) distinguish between romantic suspense and mystery/suspense with romantic elements. The major point is based on how important the relationship between the 2 characters is to the story. If it is a minor point, the story would be classified as mystery with romantic element. If it is a driving point (maybe even the main point) then it becomes romantic suspense.
Let me use a few examples. A few weeks ago I reviewed a mystery, Murder on Blake Hill (see the review here). Now this mystery had a couple that were directly involved; he was the detective and she was a journalist. There were a few love scenes in the book but the primary focus of the story was solving the case of the murders that had occurred. On the other side, the book I’m reviewing later in this episode, Apprentice in Death, has several murders and does focus on finding the killer. But an equal amount of time is spent on Eve’s relationship with Roarke and how they navigate the concept of marriage and friendship.
In both cases, great books, great stories each have love scenes and a couple devoted to each other. But their classifications are very different.
Title: Apprentice in Death
Author: J.D. Robb
Release Date: September 6, 2016
The year is 2061, and a sniper is taking down victims in New York City in what appears to be a random series of shootings. NYSPD homicide detective, Eve Dallas and her partner, Delia Peabody, are faced with the task of finding the shooter. Eve has help from her billionaire husband and reformed-criminal, Roarke. Roarke creates a computer program that quickly tells the detectives they are dealing with an Long Distance Serial Killer.
The detectives call in many of their comrades, Captain Feeney and Detective Ian McNab (Peabody’s main squeeze) from the Electronics Detective Division, along with Dr. Charlotte Mira and a few others to help them understand what is driving their LDSK so they can get ahead and apprehend the killer.
I really enjoy the In Death series, and Apprentice in Death was no different. It would have been a one sit read except for a medical emergency keeping me from sitting with the book for the needed 3 hours. It will be one I will be purchasing in hardcover for my collection.
The characters of Eve, Roarke, Peabody, McNab, Feeney, Mira, and many others are ones that we have grown to love over the past 21 years and the life of this series. They have been formed and expanded as needed over the time, so by the time we see them in book #43 of the series, they are extremely well developed. I would guess that many of the In Death fans have a pretty clear picture of their favorite characters, and may even have some fanfics about them as well.
The setting, NYC in 2061, is apt enough. There is enough description that you can imagine yourself there (if you’ve never visited NYC) but not enough to send those of us who have perpetual nightmares about big cities over the edge. Readers have to remember that this series is set roughly 45 years in the future, so there may be some changes that are purely artistic license. Likewise, some of the technology that is commonly used throughout the book may seem far-fetched right now, but most of it I think would be well within the realm of possibility. For example, from the beginning of the series (1995, Naked in Death) Eve routinely uses a communicator that lets her see and talk to someone. I’m not taking the time to look up when the iPhone came out that gave us this technology, but it wasn’t too long after. Likewise, in 1902 we hadn’t yet had powered flight but 45 years later by 1947 we had some of the most historic fighters ever made flying. I’m not going to get twisted about the idea that cars can go vertical in this story, or that the weapons of choice are lasers as opposed to guns.
The language and heat issues in this book are about normal for the series. The characters tend to use some cursing, but it isn’t used just for the sake of using it. Most often it occurs when something dramatic has just happened or there is an argument between characters.
The heat level for this book may actually be lower than normal. There was only one main love scene that was really described in the book.
Overall, I loved this book, and would highly recommend it.
(CC) Hazel Hughes is a contemporary romance writer and former urban nomad. Born in London, Hazel has lived all over the globe, from the wilds of Northern Ontario and the cornfields of Iowa to the concrete jungles of Seoul and Abu Dhabi. Currently, she is linving in Western New York, writing from wherever there is strong coffee and funky beats. When she’s not laying down steamy scenes on the page, you can find her whipping up hot and spicy concoctions in the kitchen or dancing to the beat of her own drummer. Dance with me is her first foray into romantic suspense.
Hazel, welcome to the show and thanks for being here.
(HH) Thanks for having me.
(CC) Now I have a question. We’re going to start off on, you’ve lived all over the globe and you put Dance with Me in New York City. Why?
(HH) Oh, well of all the cities that I’ve visited New York City holds the most romance for me. There is so much potential and each nook of the city has it’s own personality. And I wanted it to be about this professional dancer, and in the United States, the biggest dance companies, well the two biggest, are in New York City.
(CC) Dance with Me was your first foray into the romantic suspense genre. How was writing this novel different from writing one of your other novels?
(HH) How is it different? I guess bring nig in the suspense element. YHou have to plot a little bit more. You have to provide hints and clues and diversions along the way. Where as when I’m writing romance I tend to plot less.
(CC) You used the word plot. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
(HH) I really am a pantser. But I’m learning how to plot and still keep things exciting for me along the way.
(CC) I agree. The first novel I did, I’d plotted it all out and followed it up until about the third page and then something happened and the character did something and went a different direction.
(HH) And that does happen. Even when I carefully plot something they do go off on their own direction don’t’ they, those characters.
(CC) And that’s what makes the book fun. When the character takes on a life of their own and does their own thing and surprises you.
(CC) What kind of research did you do preparing to write Dance with Me?
(HH) To be honest, the way I write is that I do my first draft with very little reseach and something interests me I’ll go onto google and do a little. But during the second draft, that’s where I’ll do more research. I read dancer’s biographies and I did a little bit of reaseach inot the war on crime. Maybe I could have gone a little deeper into that.
(CC) So you write the book first and figure out what you need to research and catch up on what you need?
(HH) Yeah. That’s right.
(CC) It’s an interesting way to do that.
(HH) Yeah. Well I mean for me, otherwise I lose the momentum. And I also knew that I only had a short period that I could write full time and so I felt that I had to go all out and then go back and do the research. It can cause problems definitely. If you know, facts don’t match up with your imagination. So I had to make some last minute changes.
(CC) Okay. So you made sure that all the changes went into actual reality rather than fantasy.
(CC) Your previous works have all been in the area of contemporary romance. Are you working on another contemporary romance now or another romantic suspense? Is there a sequel to Dance with Me?
(HH) No. Well I don’t see a sequel to Dance with me coming out. I feel like the story between Sherry and Alexi is finished as far as it goes. I would like to work more in suspense, you know in romantic suspense because both of those elements interest me. Mystery and romance. But currently I’m writing the follow up to my first novel which is an erotic romance, Please, and I have a trilogy planned for that and I’m currently working on finishing up the first draft of the second novel.
(CC) And when will that be out, approximately?
(HH) I’m hoping it will be out before December, ah fingers crossed. but we’ll see how it goes.
(CC) Best laid plans, right?
(CC) From your biography, you’ve been all over the world. Did you always want to be a writer, or is it something that came later in life?
(HH) It is something that I came into later in life. Although, I always was a writer for fun and enjoyment and I always got positive feedback in school. I did have a negative experience in my last year of high school where I was basically discourage from going into writing, so I took a different path. But then, when I was staying at home with my children when they were younger I had a bit of time and I just fell into it again. And I’ve been doing it since then.
(CC) What else? Oh, how about a favorite author?
(HH) Hmm, I don’t know where to start. I read pretty widely. I don’t read exclusively romance. In fact I probably read more in other genres, but all with a love element in them. I really like Emily Giffin. Do you know here work?
(CC) I do not. I’ll have to look her up. That’s part of what we’re doing here is finding new authors.
(HH) She has been described as a modern day Jane Austen. I believe she’s been categorized as women’s fiction but there is always a very strong love story. It’s about relationship, not necessarily love relationships. But relationships with friends and siblings. I’m really an admirer of her and I’m an admirer of Jillian Flynn, Gone Girl. I really like how she’s able to take deeply unsympathetic characters, like terribly flawed people and make you root for them.
(CC) If you had to pick one book on your bookshelf, what’s your favorite book to read?
(HH) Ah, my favorite book to read? Well I can tell you the book that I’ve read the most times. And that’s Umberto Echo’s book The Name of the Rose. Which is I guess it could be categorized as a historical fiction and it is also a mystery. It contains element of religion and philosophy. And it’s a fascinating read and I always discover something new. I also always forget who done it. So that’s always new to me. Oh, yeah, it’s that guy. The one you don’t suspect.
(CC) Isn’t that the way it always is? It’s always the one you don’t suspect who’s causing all the problems.
So, what’s next on your docket? I mean you’re working on your trilogy there when you finish that, where do you go from there?
(HH) Well I have a bunch of..I have many different ideas that I want to pursue for series.
(CC) Now Dance with Me is out through Evernight Publishing. And where is it available?
(HH) it is available on most major e-tailers like, Amazon, it’s on All Romance E books and it’s on the Evernight Publishing website. And it will soon be available on the smaller distributors like Kobo and Nook.
(CC) Very good. Do you have a website you’d like to share with everybody?
(HH) Sure. My website is Hazelhughesromance.com and I have a blog there. I post there every Wednesday a new blog post and I post ther sporadically there as well. They’re just my basic random ramblings on writing, on romance, on sex, on love and on life in general and there are occasionally recipes on there as well because I’m a big foodie.
(CC) Since you say in your bio that you spend a lot of time in the kitchen creating stuff, that makes sense!
(HH) I do.
(CC) Okay. Is there anything else that you’d like to add today?
(HH) Oh, I would jut like to say thank you for this opportunity. Oh, I would also like to mention that I was recently selected as a finalist in the Las Vegas Romance Writers “I heart Indie” contest for my novel, my self published novel, Please. So, I’m a little bit proud of that. That’s my first mini-win.
(CC) Congratulations! Getting that first one is a big thing.
(HH) yes. And that’s it. Thanks for having me on. I really enjoyed it.
(CC) Thank you. I enjoyed having you on. Take care.
(HH) You, too.
Title: Dance With Me
Author: Hazel Hughes
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Release Date: July 24, 2016
Investigative reporter, Sherry Wilson-Wong, is forced to work what she considers the “art” beat and do an interview with the ballet company’s new lead dancer, Alexi Davydenko.
Davydenko doesn’t think the effort in talking to a report is worth it. The two find a unique way to compromise- a drinking game where the price for each answer is a shot of vodka and a kiss.
Sherry knows that she is crossing the line to get the interview, but Alexi is too tempting. But there is a dark side she discovers. The further she goes into the article for the ballet company, the more she is certain that there is something nefarious going on behind the scenes.
Now she has to watch her moves as she dances along the thin line of ethics and responsibility as she delves further into what’s happening while avoiding the henchmen who have already warned her off. Is Sherry adept enough at dancing to the beat of her own drum to get to the bottom of the story and keep her new dance partner?
My Personal Opinion
I enjoyed the characters of Sherry and Alexi. Each had a personality that Hughes shows us through their action. It may be the way they interact with their colleagues or their family members. It may come through how they relate with each other or justify their own actions. While some of their actions may seem over the top, nothing that happens is too far out of the realm of believable.
At first, there is a sense of distrust between Sherry and Alexi. It is only after their drinking game that they realize that there is something between them. As their relationship grows, Sherry must deal with her growing concern that Alexi is involved with the organization she believes is causing the trouble for the ballet company. She also must find the balance between how much she tells her editor, so she is dancing on that line regarding personal and professional relationships.
Sherry’s character is so complex that she keeps you entertained. She’s on edge at being given what she considers a flouncy story to cover and then almost immediately appalled by her reaction to Alexi. She likes working with one of her colleagues, but has deep resentment for the other. It keeps the story moving at a quick pace.
In some ways, I can relate to both of the characters. Sherry finds something she wants, but it causes her to weigh her decision about how much she is may be forced to give up to keep Alexi. I imagine that all of us at one time or another have found ourselves in a similar situation of making those hard decisions. It may be between responsibility or desire, right vs. wrong, but we’ve all been there.
Alexi is very loyal to his family. He feels very much indebted to his mother for what she gave him. The story in the book paints a bleak picture, but he never lets anything that happen cloud the fact that she is his family and he owes her. That’s unconditional love.
I would definitely recommend this book. It was a fun read that kept me entertained for a few hours. The clues that were given were logical so neither character had to pull something out of their hat at the conclusion. There were enough clues that the amateur sleuth who was reading the book would be able to make the connection to the culprit possibly a bit earlier than the main characters.
I think readers who enjoy Nora Roberts or Suzanne Ferrell or Julie Garwood will enjoy this book.
Title: Full Disclosure
Author: Dee Henderson
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Paul Falcon is the top murder cop for the FBI in the Midwest. If the victim had federal clearance or badge, chances are Paul was going to be heading the investigation. His latest investigation begins at his family’s restaurant and he knows it will be causing him headaches for a while.
Ann Silver is a busy woman. She is the Midwest Homicide Investigator, who gets called into help law enforcement agencies on their toughest cases, she’s an author who has written several popular books and she has the ear of the former vice-president.
When Ann stops by Paul’s office to drop off an old case that she thinks might connect to Paul’s current one, their worlds collide. Working together, they begin to uncover more than either of them could have imagined. Hired assassins political overtones are just the tip of the iceberg.
During their time together, they both begin to feel something. Something that neither of them was looking for or anticipating. They share religious views and hold their faith sacred, which leads to many interesting discussions while they are working on tracking down the unknown killer.
Regardless of what information they have, it seems that the killer is always one step ahead of them. The further down the rabbit hole they go on the case, the more entangled they become. Paul realizes that what you see with Ann barely scratches the surface of who she really is, and wonders what secrets she is hiding from the world.
At the end, they prevail and we have a happy ever after ending.
My Personal Opinions
I liked the characters of Ann and Paul. My dilemma with them is that that were Mary Poppins like- perfect in every way. And between them, they apparently know everybody from the former VP to Navy SEALS to top analysts and everything in between.
I think Dee Henderson does a fairly good job of creating substantial characters. It may be that with this book being the first in the series, she needed a pair who were connected to, and have their fingers in, everything. They just seemed too perfect for my taste, but they were well developed.
During the story, they are faced with the two connected crimes that the begin with, as well as several past crimes that come out throughout the story as they are digging up the data on the mysterious killer. This is where Ann and Paul knowing everybody comes in very handy. Need to talk to someone with connections into the White House? No problem, Ann has him on speed dial.
I have to admit, I liked Ann quite a bit. Maybe because she is a pilot like me, so I felt some connection. The reality is, I’d like to be like Ann when I grow up. She has a successful career, is a pilot and is a major author who knows everybody. Not too likely for a mid-list author like me who has anxiety issues in crowds.
In most books, I find that I can look at one or both of the major characters, and after a little thinking, I can come up with someone that I know personally who is very similar to the character. With Ann and Paul, I couldn’t do that. In both cases, it ended up being a combination of several people to come up with all the traits that were listed. I’m not saying that somewhere in the world this person doesn’t exist, it is just that I’ve never met them, which makes it harder for me to connect with the characters.
The reveal at the end of the book were a little shocking to me. I found I had mixed emotions about who the killer turned out to be. Unlike other suspense books, I wasn’t able to figure out who the killer was before hand. Part of that was the evidence that was needed to secure the identity was withheld until the end. The other part was that while the point of view of the book changes from Ann to Paul, it doesn’t go to the killer. As such, we never get to see what the killer is thinking.
Overall, Full Disclosure is a great read. It wasn’t as fast as some of the other books that I’ve read, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. If you are looking for a good Christian romantic suspense, this one is highly recommended.
Title: Fatal Judgment
Author: Irene Hannon
Release Date: January 1, 2011
Jake Taylor is a U.S. Marshall who has been around the block a few times. After returning home from a tour in Iraq as part of the Marshall’s Special Operations Group, he’s trying to re-acclimate himself to St. Louis. The last thing he wanted, or expected, was to get the call to be on the protection detail for Federal Judge Liz Michaels—his best friend’s widow.
Liz Michaels is barely holing on. She lost her husband a few years previously and now she’s sitting in the hospital after her sister was shot in Liz’s home. She recognizes Jake, and knows that there were things her husband had told her about Jake.
Both put on a good face and prepare to do what is necessary to get through this ordeal and face the facts that it was quite possible that Stephanie wasn’t the actual target.
While Jake doesn’t want to admit it, he begins to feel a pull toward Liz. She’s not the person his friend had painted her to be. Liz is determined to take steps and get her life back under control. She’s going through all of her old case files trying to see if there is a connection there that needs to be followed. She may put her trust in God, but she keeps looking at Jake and wondering about him.
They work through their awkwardness and begin to talk. Neither will make the move while there is still a possible threat to Liz. But they both feel the tension. It is that tension and passion that drives Jake on to solve this case, so he and Liz can begin to explore their feelings for each other.
My Personal Opinions
A quick disclaimer about this book; Irene Hannon is among my favorite authors. I’ll try not to be too biased!
I liked the characters of Jake and Liz. Both of them begin the story with baggage, each having lost a spouse in an accident. They both struggle to overcome that hurdle and learn to trust again. Liz has turned to God to see her through, while Jake kind of let his faith go. At least until he became interested in Liz and they began talking about Doug (Liz’s late husband and Jake’s friend). Both characters were complicated enough that they were realistic, and it didn’t take much imagination to see them.
As the story progresses, we find Liz is caught in the middle of a bad situation. Somebody mistook her sister for her, and shot her. So now she’s dealing with the loss of her sister and the knowledge that somebody is trying to kill her. She’s been placed in protective custody, which limits what she can do and where she can go and she begins to go stir-crazy.
Jake is working through forgiving himself for his late-wife’s death. It was an accident, but he holds himself responsible for it, and it has caused him too much grief. It is his focusing on this blame that has driven him to question his faith. Through his talks with Liz, Jake begins to open up and starts to pray and let his faith grow.
The one draw back I find with this book (and to be honest, most of Irene Hannon’s books) is that they are all fairly similar. If you’ve ever read any of her other romantic suspense, you can pretty much figure what’s going to happen along the way—at least in general terms. The circumstances change, but she has found a winning recipe and is sticking with it.
I really enjoyed this book. It is the first in the Guardians of Justice series, which focuses on the Taylor clan (Jake, Allison, and Cole). While the books are all similar, there is enough variation with the characters and how their unique talents play out that keeps the story interesting. Miss Hannon does not do a lot of scripture quoting in the books, but the faith of the characters is a recurring theme as is their growth. I would definitely recommend this book (and series) to anyone who doesn’t require sex and profanity in their fiction.
Title: Montana Standoff
Author: Sharon Dunn
Publisher: Love Inspired ( Harlequin)
Release Date: November 1, 2013
Sarah Langston has problems. She’s been kidnapped, dragged off into the back woods of Montana knowing the men responsible plan to kill her. All because she doesn’t know where her brother is. Taking a chance, she breaks free and makes a run for it to anywhere that isn’t where the goons are.
Brian Keyes is a police officer in the town who is taking some time away from the job after a key witness went missing and blew his operation. To pass the time, he is working as a Forest ranger in a fire station. He notices the girl running from two henchmen and goes to help her.
They both have a shock when the recognize each other. Sarah and Brian have a history—and a daughter that was given up for adoption—together.
As they make their way to town and begin trying to find Sarah’s brother and track the puzzle pieces down, they are forced to take a hard look at their lives and their relationships. Both with other people and God.
They soon discover that the henchmen belong to a local businessman who Brian suspected of human trafficking. The stake for this game is your life.
Working together, they track down several people who point them in the right directions until they can make one final attempt at saving everyone’s life. They also find that they still have feelings for each other.
It’s a Harlequin romance, so that pretty much sets up the ending.
My Personal Opinions
The characters were fairly well developed. Sarah is portrayed as a girl who had a troubled past and worked hard to make the best of things, even though she made mistakes. Brian tries his best; during his younger years when he and Sarah were together, he was under considerable amounts of pressure from his parents who didn’t think she was good enough for him. In both cases, it didn’t take much time and I could envision kids that I went to school with who fit both models. Thinking back to their behaviors and then comparing them to the characters of Sarah and Brian, I think they were pretty much spot on.
The problems the characters face pretty much stayed constant throughout the entire story. Somebody is trying to kill them, and they need to find Sarah’s brother. What changes is who is trying to kill them, the method used in the attempt and how they (Brian and Sarah) get out of it.
If you could change something, what would it be? (If you wish you could change the ending, don’t reveal it!)
If I was to change anything with this book, I think I would keep things a bit more mysterious for a while. We know who is after them in the first third of the book. How he keeps coming at them is really the only thing that changes. It would have been fun to have more of a mystery, and give the reader something to try and figure out.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It is short (as are all of the Love Inspired Suspense books) at roughly 50,000 words. It is a typical short read Harlequin. As the name suggests, this is more of an inspirational romantic suspense. So there is no sex in the book and no language issues.
I would definitely take the time to give it a read.
Title: In Pursuit of a Princess
Author: Lenora Worth
Publisher: Love Inspired (Harlequin )
Release Date: September 1, 2013
The young widow, Princess Lara Kincade, has returned to her hometown of New Orleans to continue the charitable work of her late husband. She also has a personal motive. She believes that her husband wasn’t killed in an accident but was actually murdered. Now she wants to prove it and expose the murderer.
Gabriel Murdock is a photojournalist who is recently coming off a bad event in his own life. The woman he had been helping to escape from a political climate was brutally murdered. Gabe’s editor has sent him to follow the princess and document her efforts as she prepares for a special art auction.
While getting ready for the auction, Princess Lara has arranged for several pieces of art to be readied as well as one of her own pieces from her individual collection to be on prominent display. This is where things to go haywire. Mysterious disappearances, threats against her Highness’s life and several other weird happenings plague the princess, Gabe and the rest of her entourage.
As the story unfolds, the princess confides in Gabe and gives him the real reason for what she is doing. This has a two-fold result for Gabe. It stirs the photojournalist in his soul—the part that is looking to solve a great mystery. It also makes Gabe aware of the Princess.
Working together, they begin to forge a bond that neither is sure how to handle. The tension from the mystery builds almost as rapidly as their feelings for each other, until we hit the climax of the book.
Again, it’s a Harlequin, so we know the ending.
My Personal Opinions:
I enjoyed the characters, even if having a princess from America is a bit far-fetched. I suppose it isn’t that much different than having a commoner become princess, but that only happens in…oh, wait. Since Princess Catherine (Kate Middleton) did just that, perhaps the character of Princess Lara is a bit more realistic. However, Lara’s penchant for going after her husband’s murderer isn’t something that fits with my version of a royal. Altogether, it is certainly within the realm of things.
Gabe’s character is one that demonstrates growth and acceptance. He’s trying to work through what he considers a failure when he gets this assignment. Gabe tries very hard to keep his objectiveness on the situation, but as his feelings for Lara grow, he finds objectiveness harder and harder to maintain.
Lara and Gabe find themselves in several different dilemmas. Staff going missing, the caravan is attacked while going to check on a humanitarian project, they get ambushed at one point. The part that made this book much more interesting is that you didn’t know where the attack was coming from. Four good suspects were shown and the reader is trying to decipher the clues along with the main characters. It made for a very entertaining read.
I’d like to believe that I’m sort of like Lara. She’s stubborn when needed, strong when her back is against the wall and resourceful in an emergency. I see those as fairly positive qualities, and I have been told by other, that I display many of those same traits. I found myself thinking about how I would handle a given circumstance, and then waiting to see how Lara would handle it. By the end of the book, I was getting pretty good at being able to guess her reaction.
I thought the progression of clues throughout the book were well done. For those of us who were playing along on the home version of the game, we were able to solve the mystery before we hit the big reveal. It was very satisfying to see that I had come up with the correct answers on who had killed the prince along with the big surprise that happens at the reveal.
In Pursuit of a Princess is a fun inspirational romantic suspense. It has all the hallmarks of a typical Harlequin inspirational romance. I think that Lenora Worth did a great job in balancing the romance between Lara and Gabe along with the suspense that drives the book.
I would definitely put this on my Kindle or other tablet. It was a great read, loads of fun, and short enough to read in a few hours.
Title: Fast Track
Author: Julie Garwood
Release Date: July 7, 2015
It’s time to buckle up and hold on because we’re talking about FAST TRACK by Julie Garwood.
Cordelia Kane is a PhD student teaching chemistry at a small Catholic high school to make ends meet when her dad suffers a major heart attack. On his deathbed, he reveals a secret that he has held all of Cordie’s life: her mother is still alive.
After the funeral, Cordie pushes through, handling what must be done and trying to heal while coming to grips with the knowledge of her mother’s existence. Going through her dad’s safe-deposit box she finds letters, some from her mother and more from her dad, and it leaves her with more questions than answers. As Cordie struggles to fill the hole in her life left by her devoted father’s passing, she tries to reconcile why the woman who bore her abandoned her.
During her time of need, Cordie’s friends descended back to their native Chicago to help her along the way. Her two childhood friends, Sophie Rose and Regan Madison are there to help pick up the pieces for her along with their husbands, Alec and Jack. But it’s Regan’s oldest brother who causes the biggest issue for Cordie since she has had a crush on Aiden since she was five and now he’s there in close proximity. Heat builds between the two as the search for Cordie’s missing mom continues and takes them across the ocean to Australia.
Cordie and Aiden set out to let her mom know they’ve found her without revealing much. But the question really ends up being, who is in for the bigger surprise? While Cordie’s mother is extremely shocked and troubled by discovering that her daughter has found her, Cordie and Aiden find themselves now playing defense in a game they didn’t know existed. A seemingly innocuous letter written by Cordie’s mother ends up being the key which opens Pandora’s box.
Back in Chicago things heat up with Cordie finding herself the victim of a ill-thought out attempted murder. Relying on her friends and their FBI Agent-husbands to keep her safe, she works at unraveling the mystery that she has fallen into.
Now onto my personal views:
Overall, the book moved fast and the dialogue was done very well. There were a few passages that I needed to go back and reread to make sure I had them straight (for example I kept messing up who had married whom. Regan had married Jack while Sophie married Alec.) But I would say that was indicative of Garwood’s style of showing the reader what was happening as opposed to just telling them.
For the most part, I would say the characters were believable. I could believe that they existed while I read this book. I think we each know people who would come close to fitting the overall persona of each of the main characters. There was enough description given so the reader could draw their own picture of each of the characters, but not so much that you wanted to skip ahead to get through pages of endless description.
I like the way Cordie is portrayed. She’s not the stereotypical heroine. In the prologue, (remember, she’s only 5 at this point) she instructs Aiden how to deal with a flooded car engine. That’s not something most 5 year olds would know, let alone a 5-year old girl, so we see she walks a different path than most. At the time of the story, she’s finishing up her PhD in BioChemistry. This is something Garwood does very well in her book. She let’s us see the character and get hints of their personality, but it is shown subtly. It’s one of the rare times that I find that I closely identify with the heroine of the book. I have a degree in physics and I am enamored about aviation, to the point that I’m actively building a plane of my own, so I personally know the path she followed.
If I could change anything in the book, it would be the way the subplot fits in. The sub plot seems a bit extraneous for the book. Several chapters are spent with Aiden and his brothers, Spencer and Walker, as they are in the process of procuring a parcel of land for their hotel chain. The main opponent is an incumbent congressman, but it really doesn’t have much to do with the overall flow of the story. One of the tings about romantic suspense is that you really don’t need that extra sub plot. It’s already built in. You have the mystery or suspense story and you have the romance. It lets the story fluctuate back and forth as the emotional needs dictate. Need to speed things up? Write a critical piece in the suspense arena that puts everyone in peril. Need a break? Add in a romantic scene or two. The writing in the sections that deal with this twist is good, but it didn’t do much to advance the story. It almost seems to me it was in there to keep the book at a specific length.
The heat level in the book was mid to high. Not an R-rated book, but perhaps a bit more than PG-13. There was some cursing in the book, but it didn’t appear on every page. It was used sporadically and seemed to fit into the story well.
Overall, I would recommend FAST TRACK to readers who enjoy Nora Roberts or Suzanne Farrell’s romantic suspense works. Fast track is a fun read that is sure to keep you turning pages, and is available at most retailers in electronic, hardcover, paperback and audio formats.
Title: The Obsession
Author: Nora Roberts
Release Date: April 12, 2016
Some things in life are so important you can’t let them go. They become your obsession. For a book lover like me, the latest romantic suspense, The Obsession, by bestselling author Nora Roberts is aptly named.
Naomi (Bowes) Carson lived through a childhood that no one should. At the ripe old age of almost 12, she saves the life of a girl she doesn’t’ know who is being held prisoner and being raped by her abductor. To add to Naomi’s complexity, the man responsible is her father.
After her father’s arrest and conviction, life for Naomi is a constant battle of trying to hide and forget the past. She just wants to be normal. Naomi, her brother Mason and her mother move in with her Uncle Seth and his husband, Harry. Eventually they leave D.C. and end up in New York City where Seth and Harry pursue their dreams of owning a restaurant. After graduation from high school and college, Naomi begins to make her life her way. Every time the past catches up with her, Naomi’s instinct is to run. As a freelance photographer, Naomi is more of a gypsy than an urbanite. That is until she falls in love with the big house and its potential. For the first time in years, she stops running and tries to put down those tentative roots.
While dealing with the renovation of the big house, Naomi finds herself opening slightly to new friends. Kevin Banner, the general contractor and his wife, Jenny have made inroads. But it’s because of a slight accident that she meets Tag (the dog) and Xander Keaton. She quickly decides both are going to be trouble.
While Xander is fixing cars and playing guitar, he’s trying to work his way into Naomi’s heart. He’s an avid reader and an astute observer, and puts together the Naomi of his acquaintance with the Naomi Bowes who helped stop her serial killer father. He holds his discovery to himself, even when women around their little town begin disappearing.
For Naomi, the disappearances of two women is bad enough. When their bodies are found mirroring the abuse that her father put on his victims, she becomes distraught. Mason arrives shortly after the second abduction. Unlike Naomi who tried to put distance between the child she was and the adult she became, Mason has studied serial killers, including his father, with the hopes of understanding them so he can help the FBI stop them.
As the disappearances continue and the body count rises, Naomi wonders why her life is crossing with a second serial killer. In the end, she and Tag are responsible for the capture of the killer.
Now onto my personal views:
I will admit to being a huge Nora fan, and as such, I’ve read almost everything she’s done, so I may be a bit biased here. But honestly, I liked The Obsession. A lot.
Typical of a Nora Roberts romantic suspense, the characters are engaging and the dialogue is witty and quick. Roberts takes us on a roller-coaster ride of emotion through the entire tale. We, the reader, feel the euphoria as Naomi looks out her window to the sea, and we feel the desolation that the dreams and discovery bring.
I can fully empathize with the character of Naomi, who just wanted to put the past behind her and move on with her life. I know when certain events from my past that I’d rather forget peek out, what that does to me. For many of us, we want to leave those skeletons in the closet and get on with the rest of our normally scheduled life. And when things happen that force us to confront those skeletons, we’re never really sure how things are going to work out until we’re done.
That being said, I liked Xander quite a bit. He’s got priorities and rituals that he lives by, but he’s not so stuck in his ways that he can’t take a detour every once and a while. Xander is a loyal friend, and Roberts shows this by several times having either Xander or Kevin comment about “…friends womb to tomb…” Xander is there to help his friends with whatever they need and he does so with a smile on his face.
Overall, the pacing of the book was great. Like many of her other books, I read this in one sitting. Roberts has mastered the art of bouncing between the mystery and the romance of the story. She’s got a terrific formula that she seems to follow regularly. Like most of her recent books, The Obsession is broken into a few section, each focusing on a different part of drama and it reminds me of a play broken into the various acts. Each act has its own rhythm, but the transition from the crimes to the love scenes are done well.
One thing I was glad about with this book, I didn’t figure out who the killer was within the first five minutes. By the end of Act 1, I was pretty sure a specific person was involved somehow. But since the bodies don’t’ start appearing for a while after that, I wasn’t sure what role the character was going to play. I also will say, that I didn’t figure out exactly what the plot or twist was going to be until well into the book. So, in my opinion, this year’s stand alone romantic suspense novel was several steps up from last year’s entry, The Liar.
The heat level in The Obsession was typical of Roberts’ recent releases. I would put it Med-high. There was enough in there that I wouldn’t let my 12 year old niece read it, but not so much that I skipped pages to avoid feeling embarrassed. If you’ve read any of Roberts’ other work that she’s put out in the past 5 to 10 years, the heat level is fairly close to those.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. It’s a great read and would be a wonderful addition to any bookshelf.
In this episode I give a little history about myself and why I started this podcast.
Christine Chianti is a romantic suspense and mystery author who is a self proclaimed bibliophile and voracious reader. She started this show to provide a quick reference to help readers save time from rummaging through the romance stacks trying to separate the romantic suspense books from the other sub-genres.]]>