Hard Evidence
Grade : C-

I’m a big mystery reader. And because of that, I’m often impatient with romantic suspense novels that contain many of the same elements as a mystery but don’t know what to do with them. Because a crime novel is about the mystery and the protagonist figuring out that mystery, the authors in that genre work hard on the plotting and make sure their protagonists behave in a logical fashion – logical for crime fiction, that is. In romantic suspense the crime and the behavior of the main characters in relationship to that crime are not always as logical. Authors, in this case Pamela Clare, use the mystery plot as a deus ex machina. It is shoehorned into the romance and forces the characters to behave illogically and irrationally. And none of that is supposed to matter because this is a romance, not a mystery.

Tessa Novak is an investigative reporter who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. When she stops in a convenience store to get some coffee, a young girl runs in. The girl is barefoot and frantic. She yells in Spanish that someone is after her and going to kill her. Before Tessa or the clerk can call for help, a drive-by shooter kills the girl. Tessa is distraught and feeling guilty because she wasn’t able to save the young woman. Determined to find the girl’s killer, she sets her sights on a man she saw in the crowd after the girl was killed. Because he has a black leather coat on, like the killer, Tessa is convinced the dangerously handsome man is involved.

Julian Darcangelo is an FBI agent on a quest. He’s determined to take down a Russian Mafioso named Burien. Burien traffics in drugs and women and Julian has been thisclose to catching him in the past, only to have Burien escape prosecution. Julian’s presence in Denver is unofficial and undercover, and having a reporter investigating the girl’s death will blow his cover. If Burien figures out that Julian is on the case, he’ll slip away once again. And that’s something Julian won’t allow, even if he has to take a personal interest in Tessa to prevent it.

Alarm bells began going off for me almost immediately. In crime fiction, Jan Burke and Laura Lippman have set the standard for investigative reporter heroines and since both of these authors worked in that capacity, they know whereof they speak. Not so Ms. Clare. Tessa’s emotions are all over the place in terms of what’s happened, and that’s completely believable. What’s not so believable is her behavior.

Thus, Tessa as investigative reporter annoyed me pretty early on. She sees Julian in a black leather jacket, the killer had on a black leather jacket, therefore Julian is the killer. So when she runs into Julian at the hospital, she immediately assumes he’s there to kill a witness and pulls a gun on him. Of course he disarms her and then kisses her to keep her quiet. Now keep in mind, Tessa thinks he’s a dangerous killer. So what is she thinking as this scary man “assaults” her?

“He’s a stranger, Tess–maybe even a murderer. Tessa’s mind knew it, but her body didn’t seem to care. The adrenaline in her blood warmed to pheromone (huh?), icy rage to steam. And before she knew it, she had quit fighting him, quit fearing him, quit breathing. Worse, she’d begun to kiss him back, her tonque curling with his, her bones going liquid as his hand slid slowly up her spine.”

Can you name one woman you know who would respond like that? One reporter? Julian isn’t much better as a realistic FBI agent. He’s working the case alone and as a sort of vigilante. Would he still have his job? Would Tessa?

Tessa and Julian as employees in their respective jobs didn’t impress me, but I did eventually warm up to them as a couple. If she’s occassionally a little too spunky for my taste, her backstory was interesting and made her a bit more layered. She was just interesting enough to match the brooding Julian, who, truthfully, has reason to brood. He’s worked undercover for years as a criminal and has had his fill of their evil ways. Add in the professional mistake that cost him personally and his behavior makes a little more sense.

Bottom line, I believed the romance, even with the occasional purple prose. As for the rest, I guess I’ll just get started on the Jan Burke I have in my tbr pile.

Reviewed by Jane Jorgenson

Grade: C-

Book Type: Romantic Suspense

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : October 29, 2006

Publication Date: 2006

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Recent Comments …

  1. Personal impression is subjective. What works for one person doesn’t always work for others, as we all know. However, when…

  2. I appreciate your comments, I find their tone completely in line with the tone of the review itself, not an…

Jane Jorgenson

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