Dear Ms. Clare:
It makes me kind of sad to write this letter as your historical books are so strong. I also think that your first book in this loosely related series was received well. This book had all the trappings of a good story but it never managed to work together for me. The concept is compelling: an investigation to bring to a close the use of underage minorities, mostly illegal immigrants, for prostitution. There is really no greater despicable act that to violate the weak and innocent in such a way.
Julian Darcangelo worked for the FBI and was close two years ago to identifying and arresting Burien who was thought to be the head of underage, illegal prostitution ring. Due to circumstances that aren’t fully explained until the latter part of the story, Julian lost a couple of agents, his investigation and he gave up on his job. 2 years later, Burien resurfaces in Denver and Julian is invited to be a special investigator on the scene.
Tessa Novak, a young investigative reporter, is trying to make her mark in Denver. She hasn’t had a good story in the three years she’s been in Denver but her journalism career is about to take a dramatic turn. While getting coffee one morning, a barefoot Hispanic girl runs in and asks for help. Seconds later, a vehicle drives and someone shoots the girl. Tessa decides to start a series of first person accounts about the murder and her investigation of it. Tessa and Julien butt heads as it becomes obvious that the murder she witnessed and the prostitution ring Julien is investigating overlaps.
Again, the storyline, the conflict, all sounds good. It was the execution of the story that fell flat. Tessa sees Julien just outside the coffee shop after the murder. She believes that he may be involved in the murder. During their first encounter, he grabs her, drags her into a closet, gropes her and then kisses her. Of course, she responds sexually.
Tess had felt his .357, had thought he meant to use it, and when he’d kiss her, her fear had tranformed into lust.
I hate this ploy. I don’t think it is believable. If you believe that someone is a bad, bad person why are you responding physically? Wouldn’t you be scared to death? It strains my credulity which is all important in these romantic suspense novels.
The attraction seems forced throughout the book. The characters were together because you, the author, wanted them to be together. Not because there was any chemistry between the two. Plus the heroine is virtually “untouched” because of one asshole she slept with in college. Listen, everyone has bad sexual experiences in college. It’s part of the college experience. This one experience, however, turns her off of sex forever. Until Julien threatens her and feels her up in a closet. And there seems to be character inconsistencies. Tess grew up dirt poor but she references years of charm school and deportment at one time.
Then there is Julien who grew up on the lam with his dad. But his dad had enough money to pay for a prostitute to have sex with 15 year old Julien. Julien then falls in love with the prostitute for some period of time but is ultimately disillusioned from the whole love thing when he finds the prostitute with his dad. Oh horrors. She was a PROSTITUTE. This and one other incident gives the reason why Julien doesn’t believe in love.
The hamfisted characterizations (all told in the space of two paragraphs) is boring at best but worse, its dull and unimaginative. In a weird writing technique, you refer to two characters by only one name. It was like they were Sunny and Cher. Only they weren’t. They actually had last names. You just never used them to create some aura of suspense.
What ticked me off the most was Tessa’s constant TSTL actions. Despite being told that she was a target of the bad guys and then even after suffering an attack by the bad guys, she still goes into the dangerous parts of the town to try to get her story. When the characters act TSTL, generally I am hoping something bad happens to them. But nothing bad happens to the TSTL character. It’s always the other person who is hurt which makes me like the TSTL even less. I know you are gong to say that the pursuit of the story is all important as a journalist but this just was not sold for me. Maybe if I had seen more discussion of that I would have believed it but in this case, Tessa just seemed foolish.
To further feed my dislike of Tessa, you portray her as someone that even the hard core chief of police loves. And half of the police station. I have a hard time believing that an investigative reporter is going to be loved by the police.
I think I’ll just stick with your historicals. C- for this one. I wonder what Kristie(J) will think of it. She’s a big fan of yours.