I’m not quite sure what to call Julia Harper’s (aka Elizabeth Hoyt) Hot. At times, it’s a straight romantic suspense – but then it goes all kooky. While it had its likable moments, there were a few things about it that got on my nerves big time.
Our heroine Turner Hastings (she was named after her uncle) is a librarian who on Saturdays works as a teller in the local bank. When a couple of idiotic robbers pull off a heist one Saturday morning, Turner takes advantage of the situation to pull off a heist of her own. She empties a safe deposit box belonging to Calvin Hyman, the bank president, then borrows a beat up old truck from a friend and disappears.
FBI Agent John MacKinnon (thank goodness for his manly name – since the heroine is named Turner, it would have been very confusing if he had been named Tracy or Leslie) and his dapper partner Toricelli get on the case pronto. When he sees Turner on the surveillance tape, John is taken with her even though she is de rigeur librarian dowdy. In his search of her home, he finds a pair of sexy shoes in the back of her closet. Hmm, maybe there are hidden depths to the lady? John manages to obtain her cell phone number and calls it.
For most of the book Turner and John only communicate by cell phone and this technique builds the sexual tension between them in a nicely unique manner. He gradually wins a modicum of trust from her and she tells him her story. Four years ago, Turner’s beloved uncle, Russell “Rusty” Turner, was accused of embezzlement. Rusty was a vice-president and the embezzlement could only have been done by someone high up in the bank. Calvin Hyman, the president, was the one to accuse Rusty and accusation killed his spirit, his honor, and his will to live. Before Rusty could go to trial, he died. Turner has been consumed with grief and a desire for revenge, putting her life on hold in order to find evidence that Calvin was the one who embezzled from the bank and nothing – but nothing – is going to stand in her way.
Turner was an odd character with some quirks that made me scratch my head. For one thing, she is constantly eating pickled herring. Now I know that there’s no accounting for tastes, but yuck! Her background and her love for her uncle (who had been the closest thing she had to a father) made her anger and desire for revenge seem very natural, but her method of going about it was haphazard. It doesn’t seem that she even sat down and actually thought about how she could collect evidence to clear her uncle’s name. Turner acts on impulse – she had no idea whether or not Calvin kept records in his safe deposit box, she just figured it was a good chance that there were (there aren’t). While on the run, Turner kidnaps Calvin’s Great Dane since she says he is being abused. As an animal lover myself, I applauded her, but let’s face it, Great Danes are pretty conspicuous, particularly for someone on the run. Oh, and Turner manages to keep her cell phone charged seemingly by magic – I wish I could do that.
John was a more believable character, but I still can’t figure out how he and Turner managed to fall in love without seeing each other. They don’t actually meet until the book is mid-way through and when he finally does meet her, it’s in a manner that if done by a real FBI agent…well, I’m pretty sure he’d have been fired right on the spot. Turner is so consumed with her quest that for most of the book, she is either running from John or pushing him away. When they have sex, it’s hot. But as a couple? I didn’t get much connection there.
There are several secondary characters in Hot who are all (with the exception of John’s partner Toricelli) annoying as could be. John has a 16-year-old daughter from his first marriage who calls him all through the book demanding to know why he and her mother divorced. She is annoying, whiny, rude, and so unpleasant that I wanted to box her ears. I could have done without this sub-plot entirely. There are a couple of clownish bank robbers named Fish and Nald who begin the action when they rob the bank. I think they are supposed to provide comic relief, but they’re so idiotic that I didn’t smile at their antics at all – and I normally love slapstick.
Hot had some good parts in it, but I’m afraid they didn’t add up to a satisfactory whole. I couldn’t buy Turner and John as a couple, and I still don’t know how to classify this. Romantic suspense? Romantic comedy? I guess I’d call it blend of both, but not a necessarily successful mixture.