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Kerry Connor

REVIEW: Circumstantial Marriage by Kerry Connor

REVIEW: Circumstantial Marriage by Kerry Connor

Dear Ms. Connor,

After enjoying your last Harlequin Intrigue book, “Silent Night Stakeout,” I made a beeline to this one. I didn’t care for this book as much as that one but I did like it enough to keep me looking at what you produce next.

Circumstantial Marriage by Kerry ConnorAudrey Ellison is shocked when she arrives home late one evening and discovers someone in her apartment. The shock turns to terror when she realizes the intruder means to kill her. Acting quickly, she escapes into the night but now where does she go? From what the killer said, she realizes this has something to do with a biographical book her uncle has been working on and that there must be an explosive secret about the man the book is about – who also just happens to be days from announcing his candidacy for president of the United States.

Audrey races to her uncle’s house only to find it a smoldering crime scene. With no other options, she decides to seek out the man her uncle mentored for years. But reporter Jason Stone has been a recluse since his wife and daughters died from a car bomb meant to silence a story he was working on. And once Audrey finds him, she discovers a man who doesn’t care if he lives or dies.

Audrey cares about her life though and manages to kick start Jason’s sense of responsibility to the truth. Whatever someone is willing to kill to cover up must lie in the hometown of the candidate so Audrey and Jason head there, posing as newlyweds. But will they be able to untangle the scandals and secrets of the past before the killer tracks them down and silences them for good?

I love a heroine who thinks on her feet. Once Audrey’s involved, she doesn’t get hysterical but logically works the problem as does Jason. In him, you’ve created quite the angsty hero but you’ve also given him a real reason for being a tortured soul. The dive bar that Audrey finds Jason in fits his angstyness to a T. I can practically feel my feet sticking to the floor. The background of both characters as investigative reporters helps the believability of how they react to the situation and decide to proceed by solving it themselves rather than risk police involvement.

I figured out whole plot by clues you include but they’re discreet and a reader has to see then connect the dots to solve it. The final decision not to reveal the whole truth is a gulper but ultimately makes sense considering all involved. The nastiness behind politics never stops does it? However I do wonder how no one had discovered the truth before or if the parties could have maintained the fiction once the presidential declaration was made. At that point the candidates are under a white hot spotlight and if Audrey and Jason figure out the truth once they start, it seems like others could have done the same. Plus though the assassin is good, so many fires and burning buildings all together? Really now. The trail of bodies would have been discovered.

The balancing act in a romantic suspense book is a tough one and here it didn’t work so well for me. The emphasis for most of the book is on the suspense and the romance is forced into a tight corner. Yes, there’s some “mentally sizing each other up” but the end result is insta love from sex in the face of a future life or death situation.

Both Audrey and Jason have past issues that need resolution before they’re ready for future commitments. The scene when Jason finally allows himself to go back and remember the good times with his wife and daughters works for me. He needed this. But when Audrey learns the truth about her uncle’s feelings for her it was too much of a neat resolution of a years old problem in short a space of time for me.

Because of the fact that less emphasis was placed on the romance, the fact that the story ends with a HFN and a potential of HEA scores points with me. Another plus is the fact that the villain is and stays villainous throughout but with no foaming and scenery chewing. And while the secret relies a lot on people having kept their mouths shut over the years, it isn’t too far fetched and the resolution of it doesn’t come from nowhere. While I wish the story had read to me as more balanced, I still enjoyed it. C+

~Jayne

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REVIEW: Silent Night Stakeout by Kerry Connor

REVIEW: Silent Night Stakeout by Kerry Connor

Dear Ms. Connor,

I’m glad I didn’t read the back blurb for your latest Harlequin Intrigue before finishing it. Otherwise, I’d have thought it was just another “hero and heroine in close proximity fighting off sexual tension while some sadistic villain threatens her” type of book. Instead, I think it’s much better than that blurb might lead long time romance readers to believe.

Silent Night Stakeout by Kerry ConnorRegina Garrett is finally going to get some vacation time in a hot locale while the rest of Chicago freezes its collective ass off over Christmas. As soon as one of her clients shows up for a meeting he begged her for and tells her why it’s so important. But when Jeremy Decker is a no show, Regina eventually gives up and heads out from her office. Only to discover why Jeremy never made it.

Marcus Waters worked hard to become a homicide detective so he doesn’t complain when he lands a case – even if the crime scene is outside in the freezing cold. What he sees chills even him – no pun intended – and his usual determination to find the killer kicks in full blast. What he doesn’t count on is having the defense attorney who is infamous within the ranks of the CPD involved in the case. Regina Garrett is known for being intelligent and for not missing a thing when it comes to getting her clients’ cases dismissed. Will the two of them be able to work together to solve the case while fighting off the attraction that’s brewing between them?

I like how Regina and Marcus have legitimate reasons, besides just standard “cops and defense attorneys hate each other,” for being wary and skeptical of the other – his sister was murdered by a man who had been sprung from jail by a “take any case” slimeball lawyer and the brother of her best friend was railroaded into jail by bad cops. And while those might be the reasons each went into their chosen profession, each loves his/her job beyond just that.

I must admit that I’m not sure about the ethics of both working on the case, interviewing witness, etc. I guess it’s okay since Regina won’t be trial attorney in the case but it still makes me slightly skittish. One thing I love is that Regina utters our Jane’s standard statement when upset people accuse us of slander/libel here at DA – the best defense is the truth!

Thanks for having both Regina and Marcus be amazed at swiftness of their feelings for each other, after all they each have some heavy baggage, and for pulling back. That pulling back – like a stretched rubber band – makes their ultimate snap into a physical relationship work for me.

You do a good job at keeping the killer’s id under wraps and offering legitimate red herrings. The unveiling is slow and steady though the questions that enter Regina’s mind in the final scenes occurred to me fairly early on. Still, the killer and the reason for Jeremy’s death make sense in a chilling “anyone could commit murder” way. I do wonder why Regina’s PI didn’t uncover a critical piece of information during initial background check/search while Regina was working to get Jeremy released. I would think that this would have been just what a defense attorney needed to have case dismissed.

Romantic suspense books have to balance both aspects of the plot which isn’t easy to do. I think you’ve done a great job with it here though. Instead of just mixing the intrigue with “hubba, hubba s/he’s so hot!,” they take the time to watch each other at work and see the care and passion each devotes to their job and for justice. Regina and Marcus see each other as people and not just sexual objects. What makes the romance work so well for me is that they eventually see that each is working for the same thing – justice for all without special exceptions for those with or without money. You show that it probably won’t be smooth sailing since each has peeps with prejudice to overcome about the other, but they have a solid base on which to build their relationship.

With books that have a satisfying “feel” I can overlook certain things and be absorbed in the story. While it ends with a few niggles for me, overall the flow and intensity of the book caught me early on and reeled me into this world. Thanks for sending it to us for possible review and for interesting me in yet another Harlequin line. B

~Jayne

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