I’m having some difficulty typing this review as the tips of my fingers have suffered severe burns as a result of holding Silent Confessions, Julie Kenner’s latest. I suppose I should have expected that a romantic suspense featuring a heroine who studies and sells erotica would be a bit on the warm side, but I have to, um, confess that my only experience with Kenner’s writing was Aphrodite’s Kiss, which was definitely a bit on the light and fluffy side.
Jack Parker, a cop who works in the NYPD Sex Crimes divison, realizes that the sexually charged notes left for women by a stalker are worded in such a stilted manner that they must be quotes. In order to figure out what the stalker is quoting, Jack turns to Veronica (Ronnie) Archer, a woman who runs a bookstore and is working on a dissertation on erotic literature. She’s an expert, and he needs her help, but it isn’t long, though, before their relationship goes way beyond education. As Jack and Ronnie work together, they begin to realize that the trail leads back to Ronnie’s store. Could the stalker be someone she knows? Worse yet, could Ronnie herself be in danger?
Silent Confessions is a single-title release, but given its lack of real depth, it feels pretty much like a slightly elongated entry in the Blaze line. That’s not to say, however, that it isn’t well written. The sex scenes are hot, hot, hot, and the suspense is jittery, edge-of-your-seat nerve-wracking, with a fabulous twist or two near the end. Virtually all the conflict is external, however. Aside from a minor misunderstanding when they first meet, Jack and Veronica pretty much bond instantly, and the action is advanced solely via the suspense plot. Jack and Veronica spend most of their time together in the bedroom.
In fact, the sex scenes are a good deal more interesting than the characters, who are pretty standard issue. Naturally there is a Painful Incident in Jack’s past that led him into this line of work, and, of course, he has recently broken up with a woman who couldn’t handle his devotion to his career. In other words, he’s pretty much like every cop hero, with nothing special to differentiate him – except perhaps his undeniable talents in bed.
Ronnie is a slightly more compelling character, absolutely necessary in a woman-in-danger plot, and we do grow to care for her and worry about what’s going to happen. Ronnie’s unabashed enthusiasm for old erotica is the most notable thing about her character. All at the same time she runs the bookstore she inherited from her dad, works on a growing collection of erotica, and gives lectures and runs an email group on the subject. But, with all that said, Ronnie is an interesting study in contrasts. Her living room walls sport erotic Japanese lithographs, yet she has framed Disney animation cells in her bathroom. In the beginning of the book, she bemoans the fact that she has “the most pitiful sex life imaginable,” yet by Chapter 5 she and Jack are acting out a passage from a Henry Miller book in quite an uninhibited way. This, mind you, before they know each other’s first names. Obviously Ronnie is a heroine who’s entirely comfortable with her own sexuality.
Unfortunately, the secondary characters are little more than cutouts who serve solely to advance the plot. Jack’s best friend and partner is a recently divorced womanizer, but he mostly functions mostly just as someone with whom Jack can discuss the stalker case. He does urge Jack to find a woman (his precise words are “you need to get laid”), but he has little to do once Jack meets Ronnie. Contributing even less to the story is Ronnie’s friend and assistant who is so totally unremarkable I can’t manage to come up with a sentence to describe her. Well… she wears funky glasses.
The lack of backstory for the hero and heroine, and the lack of any really compelling secondary characters, makes the book seem more like a category romance than a single-title. As it is, the love scenes are well-written and charged with an abundance of sexual energy, and the suspense plot kept me guessing until the very end, but the book is not as emotionally compelling as it might have been. Given a bit more character development, this could have been a keeper. Even so, Silent Confessions is a fast and sexy ride.