Hmmmm…romantic suspense…not usually a favorite of mine. As I chose to read Jigsaw and review it, I told myself to put aside my preconceptions of romantic suspense. I was going to accept the evil villain lurking around every corner and graciously read all pages wherein the H/H were running from bad guys – or chasing bad guys. Well, maybe my reading of romantic suspense has been too limited because few of these usual scenarios were – uh – usual. Not once was I tempted to skim a page as the action played throughout the book – the tension rising with each chapter. Jigsaw was a smoothly written romance with a strong suspense background and some AI (Artificial Intelligence) thrown in as a charming secondary character. Yes, different reading for me, but entertaining nonetheless.
Bella Quintera lives a rather quite life on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula conducting her research, working as an adjunct professor at a small liberal arts college, and running the college’s computer lab. Bella is thankful for her position with the college especially since both she and her Nobel Prize winning father were professionally shunned four years earlier after it was revealed that her father falsified scientific data. On top of the revelation of her father’s illegal activity was the fact that her lover, Daniel Champlain, investigated her father’s research and ultimately exposed him. Her former relationship with Daniel is one Bella would like to forget but somehow cannot. She also feels a true sense of betrayal when thinking of Daniel.
Daniel Champlain is a member of a covert team working for the National Security Agency’s unacknowledged SiOps division. He is one of the agency’s strongest specialists in cryptography. In the years since 9/11, Daniel and his team have thwarted the few attempts at bio and chemical terrorism. Daniel is yet another very cool government agent but with a twist – he is immersed in computer technology and research. He regrets that he had to bring Bella Quintera’s father down four years previously, thereby tainting Bella’s professional life as well. He hasn’t forgotten her and now has reason to fear for her safety. Although she may not welcome him reappearing in her life, he will, and he will protect her.
“Former love relationships gone bad” are one of my favored scenarios in romance writing. The leads enter the story knowing each other although real work will be required to get it running again. While this is a book with a big mystery, there is also a rich romance to accompany it. Daniel and Bella are both mature honest characters who struggle to maintain their honesty as they communicate with one another amidst a history of duplicity and emotional suffering. This is not a couple you will see throwing insults at each other (although there is the occasional dig), shouting, or choosing to misunderstand one another.
The hero, in particular, is very well rounded with few, if any, unresolved problems from his past. At one point in the book Daniel acknowledges to himself “She didn’t respond, and he wasn’t surprised he hadn’t changed her mind. Many years had passed before he’d come to terms with his past and his own failures.” I also found humor in Daniel’s communication skills. He doesn’t talk much, stubborn man that he is, but this trait rang very true with me. He doesn’t waste time talking about the frills and realizes he doesn’t share enough with Bella. His attempts to tell her about himself are fun to read.
This is actually Science Fiction Romantic Suspense. Since I seldom read science fiction, I found the AI a little difficult to absorb. I could understand the overall driving force of this book – don’t let the wrong person get their hands on this first-ever technology. But, this AI has a name, Fran, and great value is placed on Fran, not only as a cutting edge piece of technology, but also as a life – an actual personality. This particular plot device was a stretch for me although I did accept Fran in her entirety long before the book was over.
So, not being a great fan of romantic suspense, I have to ask myself “Would I read another romantic suspense book by Kathleen Nance?” The answer is a resounding yes. Kathleen Nance was able to lure me out of my preconceived ideas and immerse me in a mystery complete with AI, potential villains lurking around every corner, repeated possible loss of life, and lessons on computer technology. Yes, I still prefer straight contemporary romance wherein the majority of the story is about the romance. But this author made it all very enjoyable for a romance reader such as me.