Night Whispers could have gone one of two ways: It could have been a wonderfully sinful example of erotica or it could have been a classic slapstick comedy. Unfortunately, it was neither, and I was left mourning the book it could have been.
Mitch Wymore returns from an extended research trip to China to find that his childhood friend and foster sister Kelsey Logan has taken up residence in the top floor of his brownstone. (Note to authors: the past five books I have read have featured two Kelseys, two Kellys and a Casey. Please write something with a Lisa or a Heather). He hasn’t seen her in a few years, and the gawky, freckle-faced teen has matured into a voluptuous redhead. He’s instantly attracted, but he respects her family too much to try anything, even after Kelsey makes it clear that she’s got her eye on him, too. Then, he discovers that Kelsey works nights as Lady Love, the host of Baltimore’s sexiest and most popular late-night radio show. Hearing Kelsey croon about sex every night kills him during the day, when she’s living right under his roof. This is precisely where things could have gotten interesting. Kelsey and Mitch could have played a tantalizing game of cat and mouse. Or, Kelsey could have tried to hide her job from Mitch, creating a double identity. The possibilities were endless – and unused. Instead, the book falls into the trite plot of Mitch complaining that Kelsey is inviting trouble with her provocative job, while Kelsey complains that Mitch still sees her as a little kid with pigtails. The fact that both of them are right doesn’t make the book any more interesting.
Secondary characters also act as dead weight, dragging the book further into the murky depths. A villain never does anything terribly villainous, while Mitch’s ex-girlfriend whines every line. Kelsey’s producer could have been given a real personality. Instead, he was nothing more than a hollow gay stereotype.
The book does have its interesting moments. The snippets we hear of Night Whispers, Lady Love’s radio show, are tantalizing and give the reader a flavor of the erotic and exotic turns the plot could have taken. And, a scene where Kelsey and Mitch show up at a Halloween party handcuffed to each other and dressed as a romance novel cover is both verbal foreplay and a perfect satire of a bodice-ripper. There’s also a morning-after scene that provides one of the biggest laughs I’ve read in a long time. If every scene were written as well as these, the book would have been a winner. Instead, these pages only highlighted the weaker parts of the story, making me hungry for what might have been.
As a general rule, I don’t re-read authors whom I grade this low the first time around. However, the scenes that were effective in Night Whispers illustrate author Kelly’s potential. Her voice for comedy and sexual tension are strong, but those stereotypical conflicts between her lead characters have got to go, and if a series romance is going to include secondary characters, they’d better be better in the future.