Hitting the Mark
An atypical heroine and a provocative opening scene get Jill Monroe’s Hitting the Mark off to a good start. Unfortunately the rest of the book never lives up to them thanks to an undeveloped hero and a slow-moving storyline.
As the book opens, Danni Flynn wants revenge against her lover, Eric Reynolds, after discovering the truth about him. She pretends nothing’s wrong as they begin their latest sexual encounter, then convinces him to let her tie him up. Once she has him bound, she tells him off and walks out of the hotel room, saying she’ll call room service in a few hours to free him after he’s had time to think about his crimes.
The story picks up two weeks earlier, when Danni meets handsome stranger Eric Reynolds at a Laundromat. The daughter of con artist Daniel Flynn, Danni has a checkered past, having worked cons with her father when she was a kid. After serving time in juvenile detention, she’s doing her best to keep to the straight and narrow. Eric doesn’t seem like the kind of guy she usually goes for, but she decides that might not be such a bad thing. The revelation that Eric is the head of security at a Reno casino, one that she’s been banned from due to her criminal past, spooks her. To her relief, he doesn’t judge her too harshly when she tells him, and they continue to grow closer. But of course, the reader already knows she will eventually learn an even bigger secret about him.
The story’s biggest problem is the author’s decision to keep the truth about Eric a secret from the reader. In order to do so, Monroe keeps us out of his head. There are only a few brief, annoyingly vague scenes from his perspective, and those offer too little real insight. As a result the reader never gets a chance to get to know him. I thought this was a crucial mistake. Informing us of the truth about Eric from the start would have increased the story’s dramatic tension and let the reader experience the conflict between his feelings for Danni and whatever he’s really doing. Instead, there’s too little tension and too little to him as a character.
For most of the book, there’s not much action or suspense. It’s just Eric and Danni spending time together, having sex, and falling in love. (Well, Danni’s falling in love, but there’s not enough of Eric to make his side convincing.) In essence, this is a character-driven romance where only one character bothered to show up. In his interactions with Danni, Eric exhibits little personality and just seems drab. She keeps saying how sexy and attractive he is, and I really didn’t get why she thought so. He just seemed so blah. At the end of the book Danni tells him, “I feel like I don’t know you.” That’s true for the reader as well. A romance where one character is intriguing and the other is a nonentity is neither convincing nor compelling. Monroe’s attempt at subterfuge especially seems pointless since the folks at Harlequin have splashed the truth all over the back cover, despite the fact that she doesn’t reveal it until very late in the book.
It’s too bad, because I did like Danni. She’s the main reason I chose this book, since former con artist heroines don’t come along everyday, and her background was fascinating. I enjoyed the little insights into her criminal methods and the way her mind worked. At the same time, she’s a likable character, trying to do the right thing while exhibiting strength and intelligence. Maybe Eric wouldn’t have seemed so dull if she hadn’t been so vibrant. The plot does pick up a bit at the end, the sex scenes deliver some steam, and I liked the Reno and casino settings.
In a subplot, Danni’s friend Cassie discovers that a sex tape she made with her first boyfriend is now online. When she angrily confronts him, he protests his innocence and vows to find who’s responsible, while trying to get her back. Though a great deal of time is spent on this subplot, both the characters and their relationship are underdeveloped (though not as much as Eric), with the author telling us about their feelings, most of them established before the book began, rather than showing them. I really didn’t care much about any of this, especially since both characters came across as rather immature.
Monroe writes with some style and the book was easy enough to get through. But despite a good heroine, the mishandling of the hero made for an uninteresting and unconvincing romance, and Hitting the Mark wasn’t much more than an acceptable read.