Heat of the Moment
Lori Herter is a name well-known by many readers for the series of erotic vampire stories she wrote in the 1980’s. While I’d read and enjoyed several of the series titles she wrote for Silhouette’s Yours Truly line (particularly Listen Up, Lover), Heat of the Moment, her first for the Blaze line, was my first chance to experience her steamier stuff. What I found was a mostly unexceptional read, until the story takes a disastrous turn from which it never recovers.
Josie Gray is a research scientist at the California company Earthwaves, which is developing technology to combat the effects of earthquakes on buildings. When she hears that the owner of a rival company, Frameworks, was injured in a suspicious accident, she suspects her ultra-competitive boss was responsible. Resigning from Earthworks, she goes to Peter Brennan to tell him her suspicions.
Everyone believes Peter Brennan was paralyzed in the accident that has kept him out of the public eye, but he has secretly regained the use of his legs. When Josie Gray comes to him, he is struck by her honesty and decides to hire her, figuring he can use her expertise at Frameworks. At the same time, he isn’t positive he can trust her, so he continues to let her believe he’s confined to a wheelchair. This actually helps Josie decide to take the job. She has been wary around men since a very bad first sexual experience and hasn’t had a relationship since then. She’ll be safe around Peter, because it’s not as though he can act on the attraction between them, right? Except that Peter is nowhere near as helpless as she thinks, and he’s determined to draw her out of her shell and uncover her sensual side.
The use of paralysis in this way may offend some readers and Josie’s dismissal of Peter because he was in a wheelchair made me a little uneasy. It isn’t helped by the book’s other problems, starting with the flat characterizations. Josie’s character is limited to her fetish for earthquakes and the past experience that explains her reasonable skittishness about sex. Peter is from an Irish family and he’s developing an interest in old Irish songs. That’s basically all there is to them. The suspense subplot in particular would have been helped by a villain who wasn’t so one-note. Josie’s awakening is handled sensitively, but there’s not much of a romance because the characters as so thin and the story is more about Josie overcoming her issues than two people falling in love. The book earns its “Hot” rating not because it’s particularly arousing, but because sexual encounters make up the majority of the plot.
Heat of the Moment moves quickly enough to prevent boredom, but does little to engage the reader until Peter does something inexplicable, indefensible, and unforgivable well into the book. One can only guess sex caused his brain to move from one head to the other, as it were. Not only does he behave reprehensibly, but because his character is so undeveloped, his behavior cannot be understood. There’s no real motivation for this sudden turnabout, and that the scene takes place in the heroine’s point of view makes it all the more difficult to comprehend.
I don’t know what the author was thinking, that it would be an interesting twist to make the reader hate the hero so late in the story or if it was a misguided attempt to add conflict that went horribly wrong. The only ending that would have saved this one would have been Josie telling Peter off and riding into the sunset by herself. Any romance where that’s the preferred ending to the real one has to be considered a flop.