Grace Under Fire
Three years ago, Grace Beaumont lost her husband, father, and unborn child in a devastating car accident. In the years since, she’s dedicated herself to her family’s telecommunications business while still mourning the life she once had. Then she receives a letter that indicates the hit-and-run accident was actually a deliberate hit to take out her husband before he could expose connections between Louisiana’s governor and Mafia kingpin Booth Fortier.
Wanting to know the truth, Grace contacts the Dundee Agency, and Jed Tyree is assigned to investigate. Jed’s taking the case means balancing Grace’s interests with those of the FBI, which has several men inside Fortier’s mob and is preparing to take him down. It also means concealing his very personal connection to Fortier. The biggest challenge, though, is his attraction to Grace, the cool blonde who’s not only his boss, but who’s way out of his league.
Grace Under Fire is a single-title spin-off of Barton’s long-running Intimate Moments miniseries about the Dundee Agency, The Protectors. One nice thing about it is that, unlike some Silhouette single-titles, it doesn’t feel like just a padded series book. Barton offers a little more to the story to justify its length, with more than a dozen characters and multiple storylines interwoven. Unfortunately, like most Silhouette single-titles, it’s still pretty short, and Barton compresses parts of the story. Both the primary relationship between Jed and Grace and a rather perfunctory secondary romance feel forced. The main romance in particular comes in fits and starts amidst everything else that’s happening. It doesn’t feel natural, and neither romance is very convincing.
Barton knows how to tell a story, and except for the occasional melodramatic moment and bit of stilted dialogue, Grace Under Fire is a pleasant read, told in an engaging, easy style. But while it’s a good story, there are also a number of annoying elements that detract from it. Jed keeps a Big Secret from Grace that lays there in the middle of the story like an unexploded land mine just waiting to go off. Her reaction to the truth, on the other hand, is nicely done. Too bad that’s really the only time in the book I liked Grace, a character who was too cool and regal for me to get a handle on. Her reactions to some of the threats against her were also aggravating, and a traitor’s identity was so obvious I honestly wondered why the author was bothering to conceal who this person was.
While I didn’t love Grace Under Fire, it grew on me over the course of the book. The author had a great deal of empathy and affection for her characters, which came across in her storytelling, but I didn’t feel like I knew Grace or Jed intimately – the way you would characters in a better book. Instead they were two-dimensional and their characterizations too pat. Nor was I overwhelmed by their romance. The story is sufficiently engaging that I wanted to see how it all turned out, and I smiled when they got their all-too-perfect HEA. Not a great way to spend a few hours, but it wasn’t bad either.