Kiss and Kill
A lot of romantic suspense being currently written suffers from one of two problems. Some have too much suspense/not enough romance or vice versa. Others have a mish-mash of the two, little character development, and nothing to engage the reader. Happily, Kiss and Kill manages to avoid all these pitfalls.
Anne Atwood has spent the last twenty years being the perfect political wife to U.S. Senator Parker Atwood. She gave up a career as a reporter in order to support her husband and as the book opens she’s beginning to question that decision. She and Parker are going through the motions and her teenage daughter Barry is rebelling in a major way. When Parker takes off on a hunting trip the week of Thanksgiving, leaving Anne to cope with Barry’s anger, she is more than a little annoyed. Unfortunately, she soon learns the absence of her husband is probably going to be permanent because his plane has crashed in the mountains. The people in charge of the search aren’t holding out much hope of his safe recovery.
Being suddenly widowed is not the change Anne was hoping for in her marriage, but she knows she’ll be able to deal with it. She’s not so sure about her daughter, who’s taking out her grief on her mother. Anne is also surprised to find journalist Ian McKay back in her life. Ian had been investigating the Senator and thinks there’s something suspicious about the plane crash. He also has unresolved feelings for Anne that date back to before she married Parker. Despite her misgivings about Ian’s motives, Anne begins to let him into her life.
The jacket blurb for Kiss and Kill talks about Anne being stalked and in danger. That is a part of the story, but the stalker actually has a fairly minimal presence until the last third of the book, which is good. He is the reason that Anne delves into Parker’s dealings and allows Ian to help her. There were a few chapters that featured the stalker’s thoughts, but it wasn’t overdone, which again is to the good. The real suspense of this novel is in Anne’s investigation and her realization that her husband was not who she thought he was.
Even though the actual timeline for their relationship is relatively short, the romance grows slowly, as it should. Anne is recently widowed and no matter how unhappy she might have been, readers wouldn’t enjoy a sudden about-face. The strength of this book is in the fact that although Anne and Ian have an early encounter that she regrets, their growing love for each other is realistically written. The author makes you believe that these two people can work out their problems and that they’re adult enough to realize what’s important. It was also a pleasant surprise that these two protagonists are in their forties. Many authors would write Anne as having her child at eighteen, so that even though Barry is sixteen, Anne would still be in her mid-thirties. This is not the case here. Anne graduated from college and was beginning her own career as a journalist when she married Parker – very refreshing.
The blending of the romance and the suspense is very even, although the romance did hold my attention a little more then the mystery did. What’s impressive is that neither of these two elements is there just to prop up the other one. Though there were a few unresolved issues in the mystery, it is just as necessary to the book as the romance is. In many romantic suspense novels if you take away the mystery, the romance falls apart. It has no reason for existing other than the fact that the hero and heroine need to meet while they are investigating. Ms. Young makes you believe that Anne and Ian would have found each other whether the stalker was around or not. Conversely, she also makes sure that the mystery surrounding Parker’s doings is strong enough that Anne would have investigated whether Ian reentered her life or not.
This is not a perfect book. Anne’s teenage daughter, Barry, is a pill throughout the book. It’s believable that a sixteen-year-old would be grieving and angry after the death of her father, but Anne lets things go too far before doing anything. Anne’s actions, or inaction, as far as her daughter was concerned did not seem to fit the character as she was written. Also, some of the supporting characters’ behavior was telescoped from the beginning of the book. The reader figures things out long before Anne and Ian do. I wanted them to be a little smarter.
If you enjoy a well-written romance featuring forty-something protagonists, then this one is for you. Don’t be put off by the suspense aspects. There is some danger to Anne, but no graphic violence. Given it’s successful mix of romance and mystery, Kiss and Kill will appeal to a wide variety of readers.