Hot and Bothered
Let’s get it right out on the table: Susan Andersen builds her plot around one of those extraordinarily impossible coincidences (but, heck, haven’t we all experienced one of those “impossible” coincidences at least once in our lives?) and, yes, there is a secret baby (okay, something most of us haven’t experienced). But, for me all that’s moo (in the memorable words of Joey Tribiani) when her characters are incredibly appealing, her love scenes phenomenally scorching, and her plot so engrossing that it kept me up long past my bedtime. This, fellow readers, is a good one.
Though the publisher has changed, the author picks up on the same trio of Marine buddies featured in Head Over Heels and Getting Lucky. This time out it’s John “Rocket” Miglionni’s turn at bat, and the silver-tongued ladies man is more than up to the task. Though John is an unabashed love-’em-and-leave-’em kind of guy, it’s his “no last names and this week only” policy that led the woman he just might have wanted to get to know better to disappear after their week at a tropical resort. Heck, how can a guy reform when the woman who just might reform him is nowhere to be found?
But, little though she might suspect it, Victoria Hamilton’s influence on John was far greater than she knew. In fact, John himself views their fleeting relationship as the catalyst that led him to quit the Marines and start his own detective agency. Now as the owner and chief detective of Semper Fi Investigations, John has never forgotten the woman who got away.
But what John doesn’t know is that Victoria has a very big reason she’ll always remember her tropical lover: her adorable daughter Esme. (It seems that the young architect’s uncharacteristic vacation fling is proof positive that condoms don’t always work.) With no way to get in touch with John – she left the resort a few days early to avoid a painful and awkward goodbye – she’s proudly embraced single motherhood, raising her daughter in London far away from the influence of her controlling father.
And controlling he decidedly was, with “was” being the key word since the thoroughly unpleasant serial trophy-wife-collector is murdered in the early pages of this book. Even worse, though Victoria doesn’t buy it for a minute, her mysteriously missing 17-year old brother Jared is the chief suspect. To make matters even more muddled, because Jared himself believes that he may be responsible for his father’s death (it’s complicated), he’s now fled for parts unknown, leaving his big sister, quite understandably, desperate to find him. Enter Semper Fi investigations.
While the plot, to be sure, is painfully contorted, the author’s sure hand with characterization isn’t even remotely so. Both John and Victoria are wonderful people whose emotions and passions are always believable and always intriguing. John – as Victoria well knows – is a good man who wants to do the right thing by his daughter. He’s got a bit of residual fear to get over, to be sure, but he’s a big guy and an almost-grown-up one and I never for a single moment questioned the fact that he’d eventually get there.
On the surface, Victoria is that romance novel classic – the poor little rich girl with a mean daddy. Thankfully, since that character is one of my least favorites, Ms. Andersen’s heroine is far more than that. She’s a wonderful mother, a resourceful career woman, a loyal sister, and someone who just might be big enough to recognize that there could be a place in her life and the life of her daughter for a pony-tailed ex-Marine.
To make this book even more appealing, the powerful characterizations here go beyond Victoria and John. Surprisingly, since I often glaze over during “kid” plots, I found myself almost as caught up in the adventures of the homeless Jared on the mean streets of Denver as I was with the central romance. The author does a wonderful job of bringing to life the desperation of a frightened kid and the wise-beyond-her-years thirteen-year old who becomes his companion and guide. Frankly, I rooted for the two of them just as much as I did Victoria and John.
For my money at any rate, in Hot And Bothered Susan Andersen delivers a riveting, sexy, wonderful book. Okay, so it’s a bit contrived. When the characters are this terrific, I just can’t bring myself to care.