A Dangerous Love
The good news first. A Dangerous Love is a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense with an entertaining, light tone. The frantic chase in the beginning really grabbed my attention, and I was sure I was in for a good read. The heroine started out interesting, the dialogue was often witty or funny, and her family is presented charmingly, as a warm, protecting clan.
The bad news: the plot describes an investigation of a series of horrible crimes and the casual tone does not really fit, as it makes the mystery plot seem incidental and insignificant. I was unable to get past my negative first impression of the hero, and there are some serious inconsistencies in the characters.
The heroine is a courageous female detective and the hero is a rich, intelligent hunk. (No, not Eve and Roarke, they’re Elena and Reardon.) Elena Jackson, a Phoenix policewoman, has been reassigned to a new unit investigating old unsolved cases. Her first case is an 8-month-old murder, and she commits a cop’s first mistake by having already made up her mind about the culprit. Pinning the crime to her suspect may be difficult, because the suspect’s friend and lawyer Reardon North protects him and insists he’s innocent. (Isn’t that what lawyers are supposed to do?)
Reardon is very attractive and Elena finds it hard to keep her thoughts on the case. He’s an ex-star athlete from a wealthy upper-class family. Elena comes from a half black, half Italian family which consists mostly of cops and FBI agents. Her Italian mother has her hopes set on Elena’s finding a nice man, and Reardon seems to meet her family’s approval.
New evidence suggests there may be a serial killer on the loose. By this time Elena’s got a pretty good dea who the murderer is, but instead of bringing him in for questioning, taking his fingerprints and searching his house for evidence, Elena and Reardon cook up such a preposterous, amateurish plan for baiting him that even with the assistance of the FBI, they are unable to carry it off.
The tone of the book was not a good match for its content; even though the crimes were gruesome, the characters did not seem much affected by them and the story unfolded as a funny adventure rather than what it really was supposed to be. Elena seemed rather indifferent to the horrible tragedies she was investigating. It’s not easy to build a romance during the investigation of a crime, but Elena’s work seemed simply like a way to pass the time between dates with Reardon.
Then there are all the character inconsistencies. For example, Elena’s worried about the conflict of interest inherent in dating a suspect’s lawyer, but her worry gets turned on and off rather randomly whenever Reardon rears his handsome head. Also, Elena has filed a sexual harassment suit against one of her colleagues for making suggestive remarks. Yet she nearly swoons admiring his gallantry when the first thing Reardon ever says to her is this:
“Detective Jackson, I’m Reardon North. And let me take a moment to say you are much too beautiful to be an officer of the law. The only cops I know have broken noses and spare tires around the middle. — And though I can’t see it, I’m sure your stomach is gorgeous.”
Right. Suggestive remarks uttered by balding fat middle-aged colleagues are sexual harassment, but when a complete stranger who happens to be a hunk hints he’d like to see her naked it’s not slimy, it’s gallantry. I’d tell him to get lost. Am I just being too sensitive here? Huh, at least he introduced himself first!
The patriarchal undertones of the happy-ever-after left me a bit sad. Her career is very important to Elena and there is no indication that she envies her mother for her traditional woman’s role. She’s gone through a lot to be successful in a man’s world, fighting her way to equality at the workplace. But in the epilogue the career she’s worked so hard for is suddenly abandoned for a housewifely life of mothering a herd of children. Don’t get me wrong, caring for children is an admirable choice. But here I felt that Elena was forced to give up just the thing that made her such an exciting character. The hidden message of this story: Women may dabble with masculine occupations like policework if they haven’t been rescued by a man yet, but in order to have a happy end they need to drop the pretense of competence in their careers and realize what’s a female’s rightful place in society – at home.
This might be your kind of book if you prefer your romantic suspense free of shocking detail such as graphic violence, descriptions of revolting crime scenes and emotionally disturbing interviews with grieving relatives. However, I read a lot of straight suspense and I’ve come to expect a certain degree of darkness for the sake of psychological realism; serial murders are emotionally disturbing crimes from the dark side of human nature. I’d like to read a straight romantic comedy from these authors (J.M Jeffries is actually a two-author team); maybe their tone would work better there.