I’ve always been a sucker for angst, and boy, Lawman doesn’t come up short. The characters go through emotional hell, but it serves to connect the reader and the protagonists.
Garon Grier is a “taciturn” FBI agent who just moved to a ranch in a small town in Texas. He’s investigating the abduction, rape, and murder of a small child; he believes the little girl is the victim of a serial killer. He’s been married to his job ever since his wife died tragically years before, and doesn’t have any room for anyone else in his life – until his frumpy, “spinster” neighbor comes banging on his door.
Traumatic events in Grace Carver’s past have left her introverted, shy, and fearful of men. But after her grandmother dies of a heart attack, her neighbor Garon helps keep her afloat. Grace is an innocent in almost every possible way, yet at the same time has a cynical view of life after she was hurt so badly as a child. Her growth was delightful and I reveled in watching her her break out of her shell, step by step.
Garon initially insists he’s not attracted to his “spinster” neighbor (who else but Diana Palmer would use the term to describe a 24-year-old?), but after spending time together, eventually realizes he wants her. He then determines that Grace is the kind of woman who would fall in love with the first man to pay attention to her, and switches gears again and takes the easy out with a cowardly “I’m busy…I’ll call you later.”
Those who have read Palmer before will recognize this sort of behavior…and that which followed. Garon is true to Palmer form and the efforts he takes – unnecessarily – to convince Grace to get out of his life are pretty brutal. Frankly, he comes across as a complete SOB. Eventually, though, as he learns more about Grace’s childhood and the two are brought together again under unexpected circumstances, his feelings change drastically.
Palmer brought the characters to life and as a result, I felt empathy for Grace and Garon. Their love, pain, guilt, betrayal, and hurt all took turns tugging at my heart. I alternatively felt Grace’s growing affection, then her hurt and dismay at Garon’s betrayal, and Garon’s confusion, attraction, and guilt regarding Grace. Though certainly larger than life, their emotions never seemed forced or contrived. Melodramatic at times, but still real. The twosome don’t have a simple courtship, but their trials make their feelings for each other that much stronger.
The suspense sub-plot is fairly minor, even though Garon’s investigation surprisingly leads him to Grace’s door. I figured out the villain’s identity immediately. Palmer doesn’t try to hide the fact or make it a whodunit. She’s more interested in the emotional repercussions of the crimes, and how they affect relationships. I have no firsthand experience with someone who suffered the trauma Grace did in her childhood, but her reaction made sense to me, psychologically, as did her progression from being afraid of men to loving one.
While the emotional aspect of this book seemed natural, though, other things were contrived, and part of the ending went over-the-top. A scene that sticks out like a sore thumb occurs when Garon, who still has a pretty low opinion as far as Grace is concerned, is frustrated because they have a witness to another crime who only speaks Arabic. Here comes Grace, who can stand in as translator because she speaks fluent Arabic. Her sudden language skills were a bit of a deus ex machina. Never before did they play a part in the book, and they were gone as quickly as they came. It just didn’t make sense to me. Throwing that in there just seemed to go too far, in terms of convincing Garon that yes, Grace is smart. Look, she speaks Arabic!
My initial reaction upon closing Lawman was that I’d just read a DIK, but after thinking more fully about the scene I just described, I realized it wasn’t. It’s de rigeur to say Diana Palmer writes guilty pleasures and to leave it at that, but the strength of the book’s characters and their emotions took my breath away.