I must admit that the first fifty pages of Sighs Matter were a test of endurance for me. First there was the hero who snapped his gum repeatedly while responding to serious questions with flippant, sometimes extended, answers such as “Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, bad fit, donated it to Goodwill. The end.” Yes, that is the hero talking. My first impression of the heroine wasn’t much better with her rather inane opening talk with best friend, full of little more than sexual puns, followed by pages of bad attitude towards a hero who has never done her any harm.
Beneath Detective Taylor McKennitt’s smart-aleck exterior dwells a rather sensitive man who works hard to hide the fact that he is basically a really nice guy. Dedicated to his job, he serves with his brother Soldier (the hero from The Damsel in This Dress) on the Seattle police force. He can’t forget the night of passion he shared with Claire Hunter after his brother’s wedding eight months ago, but knows he is over the rejection he felt when she refused to see him afterwards or even return a single phone call. But fate has brought them across each other’s path again as Taylor views Claire through his binoculars while conducting a covert surveillance for his newest investigation. As he fine tunes the focus of his binoculars, he is grateful that she is no longer his almost girlfriend and can appreciate her attributes “without getting his knickers in a twist”.
Dr. Claire Hunter has more than one reason to avoid relationships with men who choose law enforcement as their career. A fairly serious minded individual, Claire can joke readily enough about men and sex, but can’t seem to take any relationship with a man lightly. Her one attempt to have a one night fling in the afterglow of the wedding was a joke because what woman would want to leave Taylor McKennitt after only one night? Even though she forced herself to leave him before he awakened the next morning, the fact remains that, although Taylor might not be the right man for her, he is still impossible to forget.
While completing repairs on the family home she plans to sell, Claire spends some time with her Aunt Sadie. Sadie is a former movie star with three Oscar nominations to her credit; she shared the screen with the likes of James Cagney and Spencer Tracy. She quotes lines from old movies in everyday conversation and is often overheard acting out some of her favorite scenes with her parrot Hitch. These characters play significantly into the zany atmosphere I believe the author is attempting to create, but they fall short of funny. Sadie’s movie credentials don’t ring true with her actual age and the inconsistencies so distracted me that I actually stopped reading to research just when James Cagney made crime dramas. Sadie still lives a colorful life and no better proof of that is her choice of fiancé, an undertaker and owner of Mortimer’s Mortuary.
Driving home to her aunt’s one evening, Claire’s vehicle is rammed repeatedly and forced off an isolated road. Rendered unconscious, Claire doesn’t realize someone removed her purse from the front seat and replaced it with an open bottle of liquor until police arrive at the scene. Claire looks more like a DUI than a scared woman whose life was just threatened and she is hauled to the police station for questioning. A horrendous night only gets worse when Claire discovers that she has been released into the custody of none other than Detective Taylor McKennitt.
It seems the undertaker is up to no good and it’s his shenanigans that have brought Taylor into the midst of Claire’s life once again. An added element of mystery is the handsome, perfectly attired, Mercedes-driving orthopedic surgeon who is convinced that Claire is his. As she attempts to recover mentally from her forced accident, Claire realizes someone truly intends to hurt her. Although I guessed the identity of the biggest villain early on, the suspense at times was above average and it took a while to confirm my suspicion. But, ultimately, the presence of so much evil, danger, and heroics gave way to over-the-top action causing me to not care much about what happened in the final chapters.
Both Taylor and Claire evolve into fairly likable leads and lose most of their prickliness with Taylor playing the protector, although Claire is quite a fearless woman as well. Taylor becomes less of a comic figure and more of a true hero type as the story progresses, but I had difficulty finding much depth to Claire.
The almost slapstick humor of Sighs Matter served to lower the final grade since it is not a favorite of mine. Despite its heavy suspense content, the book is so full of banter and sexual innuendo that it definitely falls into the light reading category and its Warm sensuality rating made me wonder what the publisher thought they were doing with a cover that shouts highly sexual if not erotic content. Make no mistake – this is romantic suspense wherein the leads’ sexual relationship is minor in comparison.
There are some truly humorous moments such as Taylor’s jealousy over the surgeon and the not so subtle putdowns Claire and Taylor seem destined to heap on one another. The relationship between secondary characters Soldier and Betsy from the author’s first book was so cuddly and picture perfect that it read as if the author was attempting some sort of romance novel parody of how former couples often appear in later books.
Overall reading Sighs Matter was like riding a small roller coaster for me – there were some fun moments, but most of it was more work than play.