Dear Ms. Rice:
Yesterday I blogged about probably my favorite Lisa Marie Rice book. Today I bring you my least favorite LMR book (and apparently the only one my blogging partner, Janine, has in her to be read pile). Dangerous Secrets starts out with a superb prologue. There is a watcher on a hill observing a small group of people at a funeral. The watcher is paying particular attention to the widow and looks upon her pale face, “A lovely face. A face he'd kissed more times than he could count.”
It’s a fantastic start and I was immediately hooked. I turned to chapter one with great anticipation. Chapter 1 starts in 10 days earlier. I confess that when I saw the 10 day reference I figured we’d be in the midst of marriage between the two main protagonists. Instead I am shocked to discover that the two don’t even know each other ten days before. In chapter one, I am asked to believe that these two total strangers will meet, get married, and one will fake a death within 10 days. That’s a bit tough to swallow. It’s like asking a girl if she’ll give you a blowjob before the hors d’oeuvre are served. Give me some time, Jack, and a little romance?
From the sublime (intriguing prologue) to the ridiculous in the space of 5 pages.
This whole book suffered believability problems. First was the coupling of Nick and Charity. Nick is in Charity’s small town hunting a Russian criminal boss. Something bad is going down and his team of operatives (all three of them) need to get inside. They target Charity as she is a close friend of the Russian criminal boss. Charity is the town library who, by all accounts, lives a sedate life. When Nick asks her out, posing as a successful stockbroker who retired and plans to start his own investment firm. In Parker’s Ridge.
Charity finds nothing odd about this. Even though she hasn’t had a date since forever, she is not at all alarmed about going out on one with this total stranger. On top of this, she doesn’t have any real qualms about taking Nick to her bed that night. Now, I have nothing against the hookup or the one night stand in books as the prologue to a happy ever after, but nothing about Charity said “hookup and take home some stranger”.
Nick, of course, views hooking up with Charity as part of his duty as an undercover agent. See he’s used to whoring for the government. His last assignment was as Seamus Haley, a former PIRA fighter. To keep undercover he had to have near constant sex with Conseula, the crime head’s sister. Conseula liked her sex frequent and painful and while Nick hated doing it, he still “fucked her hard.”
Oh, Charity, close those legs before he gives you a disease, my internal girlfriend cries.
But possible disease bearing penis aside, Nick’s whole persona is supposedly a facade:
Nicholas Ames was thirty-four years old, a Capricorn, divorced after a short-lived starter marriage in his twenties, collector of vintage wines, affable, harmless, all-round good guy.
Not a word of that was true. Not one word.
During the entirety of the courtship and brief marriage, Nick was pretty much playing a character. Or supposed to be playing a character. In the 10 days, it’s not well conveyed exactly with whom or why Charity falls in love. (Also I found the reason that Nick had to marry Charity totally ridiculous but in the great scheme of things, this is pretty minor).
Nick and Charity are immediately in lust and somewhere between the first coupling and the twentieth, they fall in love or something. But their love is doomed! Because, you know, Nick is a liar and Charity is oblivious but also because Charity’s good friend is a horrible criminal.
But I sympathized more with the criminal than I did with Nick. I felt I knew the criminal better than I knew Nick as well. Vassily Worontzoff was a major literary star in Russia when he and his wife were arrested and placed in Soviet Union’s prison camp, Kolyma. There Vassily’s hands were crushed and his love and wife was brutally raped and killed. Vassily survived Kolyma and turned to a life of crime and violence. Why? This really wasn’t explained other than Vassily sought power, but he had no boundaries. Every money making and power making endeavor was undertaken by Vassily’s organization even human trafficking of women. You would think Vassily would not go there, but no, only Lisa Marie Rice’s heroes are allowed to be arms traders with a conscience (that’s Dangerous Passion).
Vassily ends up in northern Vermont where he finds Charity, the living image of his Katya. He becomes obsessed with Charity. He creates a idyllic existence for her, inviting musical stars from all over the world to perform at his estate for Charity’s benefit. They talk about literature and philosophy. Charity enjoys Vassily, considers him a friend.
Other than what Nick presented to us, it was hard to see Vassily as anything but a broken-hearted and obsessed man and frankly Nick was just as obsessed but since he is the hero, his craziness is hawt instead of scary.
I didn’t like Nick much. I think it was because he was portrayed as total hater of women, except for Charity. Good thing she was the most beautiful natural woman he had ever seen because otherwise it would have been more angry forced duty fucking for Nick. Nick actually refers to women as dogs:
Christ, she was pretty. No, she wasn't just pretty. She was beautiful. Not many women were beautiful, magazine articles to the contrary. They gussied themselves up, and a lot of them that were secretly dogs wore so much makeup you really couldn't tell what they looked like in there, under all the glop. And then of course there was the knife and the needle, giving half the women in America the same thin, upturned nose and big pillowy lips.
Charity had a natural beauty that didn't scream in any way, and yet once you did, once you really looked, it was almost impossible to tear your gaze away.
Nick groaned, looked down at himself through slitted eyes. He was hard as a pike, with nowhere to go with it.
This was new for him. He rarely beat the meat. He didn't have to. When he was on a mission he was too busy trying to save his ass to think about sex. And when he wasn't on a mission, well, half the world was female, after all, most with all the right plumbing. Lop off the under eighteens and over fifties, then lop off the dogs and you were still left with a world full of women to fuck.
Right now, for instance, he could be in bed with the waitress in the dingy diner where he'd eaten a cheeseburger. Or the checkout girl where he'd bought the whiskey.
He could have more or less any woman he wanted. He could dress and drive down to the tavern he'd seen five miles down the road. Half an hour after walking through the doors, he'd have company for the night, guaranteed.
As an aside, I read the Susan Mallery book, Almost Perfect, closely after this book and the heroine spray tans. I kept thinking that Nick would have thought the heroine in Almost Perfect as the whore of Babylon for spray tanning.
Nick has to resolve his deceit with Charity and get the goods on Vassily. Charity just has to smile her natural, perfect smile and be ready for penetration by Nick at all times. Sexy and romantic. D
This is a trade paperback from Avon. Expect Agency pricing.