Every Move You Make
Harlequin Blazes tend to be sold on the basis of their sexy premises. Most of the stories don’t go any deeper than that initial concept, often something involving an inexperienced or sex-starved woman desperate to get some. The back cover of Every Move You Make makes it sound as though that’s exactly what this story is about – she’ll “offer her investigative expertise in exchange for lessons in lust” – which is what made the book such a pleasant surprise. Instead of being focused on the sexual relationship, there is an actual story here, a light little mystery with real characters and subplots, peppered with some more-explicit-than-usual sex.
Every Move You Make is a spinoff of Harlequin’s Trueblood Texas continuity series, about the Finders Keepers detective agency. It’s connected to the series through some of the characters, but it stands on its own. After the death of his grandmother, Indiana native Zach Letterman moves to Texas hoping to connect with his Texas relations and become a private investigator with Finders Keepers. He is quickly paired with P.I. Mariah Clayborn to learn all he can from her. The case sounds simple: track down a lost wedding gown for a couple hoping to renew their vows. It soon becomes clear there’s more to the case than they’ve been told when they’re pursued by someone desperate to get the dress from them.
Before Zach walks into her office, Mariah’s just been dumped by her boyfriend. To make matters worse, this boyfriend is the third man to get engaged to another woman right after breaking up with her. Mariah is not exactly feeling great about her attractiveness as a woman. A few days with Zach go a long way toward changing that opinion of herself.
Obviously this isn’t a story begging to be taken too seriously. It was a nice change of pace from most of the series romances I’ve read lately, not exactly a romantic comedy, but still breezy and fun. There are enough plot twists to keep the investigation interesting, and Carrington does a fairly good job keeping both the investigation and Zach and Mariah’s relationship progressing at the same time. There are also a number of minor characters and subplots that give the story a good sense that Zach and Mariah aren’t living in complete isolation. Unlike so many books where the secondary characters exist only to serve the main characters’ story, the husband and wife writing team known as Tori Carrington fleshes out some members of the supporting cast in a few broad strokes so we can see that, like most people, Zach and Mariah are surrounded by people with lives and stories of their own. It was a nice touch I appreciated.
There’s no doubt whose story this is though. Mariah was a great heroine, a strong, capable woman who wasn’t entirely comfortable in her own skin. She grew up as one of the guys, and has had a hard time adjusting ever since the day her father told her he didn’t want her hanging around the ranch anymore since she was proving to be a distraction for the ranchhands. I appreciated how Carrington left no doubt that she was a good investigator, as she almost immediately figured out that Zach had zero experience as a detective. Zach was a good match for her. He might not have the experience, but he’s smart enough to contribute to the case. He’s decent without being weak, a good guy in the best sense of the term. There was an easy chemistry between them; they seemed to fit well with one another in an effortless way.
For the most part, Every Move You Make is a light and entertaining romance. It does have that required “sexy premise,” which is also one of the weaker parts of the book. As promised on the back cover, Mariah offers to teach Zach how to be a great investigator if he’ll teach her how to be desirable. This comes up about seventy pages in and felt wildly out of place. Until this point, the story is unfolding naturally, as the authors takes the time to develop her characters as people. They seem so reasonable and down-to-earth that I didn’t believe this was something they would do. Surely there was a way for her to act on the attraction between them without doing something so gimmicky. Thankfully this element is used sparingly and isn’t a major part of the plot.
My other problem with the book is that it was rather silly at times, which took me out of the narrative flow of the story. Every sit-com featuring a wedding dress seems also to feature someone other than the bride trying it on. Well, after Mariah and Zach find the dress, so does Mariah. If you guessed that plot complications ensue, you’d be right. Later, Zach and Mariah discover why exactly someone wants the dress, and the decision they make as a result didn’t sit well with me. As they did not own the dress and had only been hired to find it, how they used it didn’t seem the most ethical course of action. While the authors find a way to put them clearly in the right in the end, it was a moment that had me going, “Wait a minute”….
Reading Every Move You Make was much like riding down a smooth, steady highway, only to hit potholes every fifty miles or so. In the end I liked it a lot, but would have liked it even more if it weren’t for some of the plot contrivances. One thing worth mentioning is that the sex scenes, while more explicit than most series romances, are relatively brief. Readers looking for tons of sex won’t find it here. This is one Blaze where the sex serves the story, not the other way around. It’s not the sexiest Blaze I’ve ever read, but it is one of the better ones.