Dark Side of Dawn
Air Force Captain Joanna West is flying the Secretary of a State and her Secret Service detail to a speech when she witnesses a bad car accident. Despite protestations from the head of the detail, she decides she can’t not help and touches down. She has no idea that when she pulls Alexander Taylor from his burning car that her life is going to change drastically. Alexander, the grandson of a former President, was trying to evade the paparazzi when the accident occurred. Alexander is long used to being in the public eye. Hee resents the intrusion of the media and tries to maintain a very low profile.
From the start, Joanna is attracted to Alexander. He’s charming, handsome – a real cool customer. Alex is also quite attracted to Joanna and he comes on really strong. In the beginning, Joanna is flattered by the attention but soon it begins to turn a little weird for her. All of the sudden, she’s fodder for the media and the attention is something she does not want. Alex has lead a very privileged existence and it shows; it’s obvious from the start that he is used to getting his way in all things.
Because Joanna strayed from her flight course, she is grounded and an investigation ensues. Joanna knows she is a good pilot and hopes this will be cleared up quickly but makes a mistake in telling Alex what has happened. Alex uses the opportunity to make some calls and stick his nose into her business. While this doesn’t sit well at all with her, she thinks talking to him will do the trick. It doesn’t, and their budding relationship begins to take a very dark turn. Not only is Alexander’s behavior getting scary, but there’s a secret surrounding him, and as people get closer to it, they are winding up dead.
Joanna breaks things off with Alexander and learns that the word “no” is not in his vocabulary. Friend and co-worked Deke Elliot decides to help her out and tries to protect her as Alexander’s behavior gets more out of control. Deke and Joanna have been attracted to each other for ages but Joanna never wanted to cross the line and get involved with someone she works with. Still, the two are drawn together. You can see they genuinely are attracted to each other, and Ms. Lovelace does not hide their attraction to each other even while Joanna is seeing Alexander.
Even with the romantic entanglements, the book does not read as a straight romance. Joanna’s relationship with Alex seems off from the beginning, and Deke is introduced early, so we’re set up early to expect something. My only quibble romance-wise is that Joanna seems to go from Alex to Deke really quickly. While I understand the relationship had been brewing for a while and they were friends, it seems like a big jump in a short time. Still, this in no way ruined anything for me, mostly because I really liked Deke’s character!
Joanna is a smart, capable woman who makes a wrong decision in romance but doesn’t play the poor me routine. Once she realizes she’s in over her head, she tries to get out of it. Yes, it takes her a while to get a clue, but it’s all very believable. Her career is important to her but she doesn’t have blinders on because of it. She loves her work but wants to have a life outside as well. All in all, she is one of the most likable heroines I’ve read in awhile. I enjoyed Deke as well, but would have liked getting to know him better. He’s there on and off through a good part of the book but doesn’t play a major role until the final third.
Dark Side of Dawn is well-written, nicely paced, and doesn’t drag – all important qualities for a romantic suspense novel. Even though, I thought Alexander was weird from the beginning, Ms. Lovelace gives nothing away and we discover, along with Joanna, how truly menacing he is. Many times in suspense novels, we get inklings before hand through internal monologue or very big clues. I definitely prefer it the way it’s written here and Ms Lovelace builds the suspense well. However, this very quality could be the reason why the romance between Joanna and Deke seemed somewhat rushed. Still, it’s easy to see that these two people genuinely like each other as people – an added bonus are the love scenes these two share.
Not only are the hero and heroine likable, but the villain is menacing without being an over the top caricature. You can see the reasons he is the way he is and while you do not sympathize with him, you aren’t left thinking “huh?” by his actions. I especially liked what Joanna did for a living. Being a captain in the Air Force, and a good one, is something that sets this book apart – this is not your mother’s romance novel. It’s a really nice change of pace to read about a strong, capable women in a field that is possibly still thought to be a man’s world. This was my first experience with Merline Lovelace, bit it will not be my last.