Flirting with Disaster
Flirting With Disaster may be that rare case of too much of a good thing. It’s sharply written and features uncommonly well-drawn characters for a romantic adventure story. Everything that’s good about it is so good it’s difficult to explain why I couldn’t embrace it even more wholeheartedly. Ultimately it comes down to this: the book’s too long for its own good.
Dave DeMarco and Lisa Merrick developed an unexpected friendship during their senior year of high school. He was every inch the upstanding young man; she was the smart-mouthed bad girl from the wrong side of the tracks. But he saw straight through her tough exterior and became the only true friend she ever had. Their relationship came close to moving to the next level, but Dave was engaged and ended things with Lisa just before the end of school, with the promise that she could call on him whenever she needed him.
Years later, Dave is a police officer and widowed single father. He’s shocked when he sees Lisa on the news, reported dead after her plane went down in Mexico. That’s nothing compared to his reaction when she calls him later that night, very much alive and needing to cash in that promise from long ago.
The plane crash was no accident. Lisa was on a humanitarian mission transporting medical supplies to Mexico when she discovered the doctor in charge of the Mexican clinic was smuggling drugs. When he learned of her discovery, he sabotaged the plane before she and another doctor could expose him. Trapped in a village where no one can be trusted, Lisa can only turn to Dave.
Her story is so far-fetched he doesn’t initially believe her. He only intends to go down to Mexico and get her to safety so she can get the mental help she obviously needs. It doesn’t take him long to figure out that her story is true, or that his feelings for her are still there after all these years. From the very first page, it’s clear that this book is a cut above the norm. Graves kicks off the story with a dramatic opening scene where Dave deals with a suicidal man threatening to jump from an overpass. It’s fast, it’s not as heavy as it might sound, and sets the tone for both Dave’s character and the rest of the book right out of the gate. The writing is strong, and all of the characters pop to life from their first appearances in a way that isn’t common.
I liked both Dave and Lisa a great deal, and their relationship is a very sweet, very romantic one. Rather than feel gratuitous, the flashbacks to their high school experience are nicely emotional and effective. Lisa in particular is a strong, tough heroine who never stooped to any TSTL moments. Despite having the usual overblown sad past, she rose above it due to the strength of her character. Instead of coming across as a weak attempt to fill in a character that wasn’t there, it merely added dimension and extra pieces to a woman who was already a full-bodied person. There are a number of exciting scenes and good twists, and not all involve the hero and heroine; the character of a young man torn between his criminal brother and doing the right thing was well done, his struggle made vividly real.
As good as it is, the book does seem a little needlessly overlong. When you get right down to it, the story isn’t that complicated and follows a relatively straightforward path. It feels a bit padded at times. Did we really need not one, not two, but three extended sexual interludes at different points in the story? That doesn’t even count all the times they have sex, since in the first interlude they start out in the bed and move on to the shower for their second go. It seemed excessive considering the circumstances they were in. Some scenes, like one where Dave and Lisa each go down to complain about the noise at a motel and wind up watching a Cowboys football game, feel like filler. A secondary relationship also doesn’t amount to much, especially compared to the other storylines. Did the heroes of both the primary and secondary romance both require tormented secrets related to their marriages? Unlike Lisa’s, their secrets did seem too typical.
It’s not often I wish for a little less of a book, and it seems a little petty since there is so much that’s good about this one. But if it had been a little shorter, the story would have been tighter and I wouldn’t have grown restless and wished things were moving along faster at various points in the story. Make no mistake about it I can easily recommend Flirting With Disaster since it’s a very good book. A little less of it would have made a great one.