Dangerous Curves won the 1997 Golden Heart from RWA for romantic suspense, so I expected it to plunge right into the action, and I wasn’t disappointed. The main characters are on the run and are being chased all over Florida, from the Everglades to Key West to Tallahassee. It’s an intense plot, but there is also plenty of sexual tension, and the hero’s large yet gentle dog provides some lighter moments along the way. And this novel avoids some of the dreaded clichés of series romance; there are no cowboys or babies, and nobody gets amnesia!
When we first meet Samantha Martin, she is running for her life through a swamp. Sam reaches the road and gets a ride from former cop Jake Cavanaugh. Sam tells Jake that she is being pursued because someone wants to steal incriminating negatives from her. Although Jake feels a strong urge to protect her, he doesn’t trust her at first. Then he is framed for murder, and has no choice but to become involved. With all the evidence against them, Sam and Jake don’t dare go to the police for help. As if this wasn’t enough, Sam faces another problem. Her captors had tried to keep her sedated, so she must go through drug withdrawal. When they are able to develop the photographs, Sam and Jake realize they’re in even greater danger than they imagined. They must decide whom to trust.
At first, Sam and Jake seem ill-suited. She’s a travel photographer, and he’s an ex-cop. Over time, though, we learn that they’re similar. Both have seen too much of the world, and both feel guilty about the past. A subplot involving Sam’s reunion with her estranged father is handled with sensitivity. She’s afraid to meet him, and still angry with him. Jake helps her come to terms with her past, just as she helps him see the mistakes he had made.
Sexual tension develops at a believable pace. Though they become attracted to each other, Sam and Jake don’t become lovers right away. They care for each other too much to take that risk. There was one annoyance; Sam often ends up wearing clothing that is too small for her. While this made Jake very, very happy, all I could think about was how uncomfortable Sam must have been wearing tight clothing in humid weather.
Kristina Wright shows mastery of the “Show, don’t tell” technique. She moves the story right along by revealing the characters in the way they act and think. The point of view is limited to Sam and Jake, and this keeps the plot in tight focus. Readers will rejoice to know that the point of view never shifts during a scene.
There are some coincidences that weaken the plot. For example, how come a heroic ex-cop was driving past the swamp just as Sam emerged? In addition, there are a couple of scenes where you expect action to erupt, but then turn out to be false alarms.
The villains are an unknown quantity, which adds adds to the suspense, because Sam and Jake don’t dare trust anyone. Unfortunately, because the chief villains are often offstage, they never become strong characters. They seem like abstract obstacles rather than people.
This is a fast-paced and exciting book, and the resourceful main characters are right at home in the action. If you go along for the ride, you’ll get a great road trip as a bonus. The Key West scenes made me want to take the next plane out. At least reading is the next best thing to being there.