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REVIEW: Need to Know by Christine Merrill

Dear Ms. Merrill:

B002SN9GGQ.01.LZZZZZZZSomeone sent me an email pointing me to this blog post by Lani Diane Rich wherein she lamented that there was a great book out there that no one was reading.   I was intrigued. I knew you wrote historicals for Harlequin but I admit to never having read you.

While I don’t know if this is the best book that no one was reading, I did enjoy it.   I don’t read many thrillers so my assessment of what makes a great thriller is probably very different from someone steeped in that genre. Having said that I found this book to be fast paced and interesting enough to make me wonder if there will be a book 2.

Liz Monahan is in New York with her newest boyfriend, Doug. He’s been acting very strange and she wonders if he is married. After all, he’s booked her a room in the same hotel where he is staying and won’t let her go to his room. She’s been snooping through his things, like his wallet and his pants pockets (the latter might have been an accident) to see if he is secretly married.   She seems to have the unfortunate tendency to end up with married men.

After being kissed six ways from Sunday by Doug in the elevator, Liz is sent off on her way to seek her own room as Doug answers an emergency phone call, or so he says. When she arrives at her room, she sees a man with a roll of duct tape and a corpse on the ground. Before she can scream for help, the man with the duct tape grabs her and presses her face down on the bed. Liz is able to get away and she runs to the lobby but by the time the management can respond to her, the room is spotless with no sign of the dead guy or any foul play.

Even her boyfriend, Doug, thinks that she’s made up her story. This is the last straw for Liz and she returns home to Chicago sans Doug.

Harper is the man with the duct tape. He works for some secret government agency and his partner, Max, is the one that created the corpse. Max is a known wild card and Harper was matched with Max to keep him in check. Only it doesn’t work and Harper is left with a corpse, a witness, an unaccounted for amount of money in his account, and an unhappy fiance.

Harper has to convince Liz that he’s not a killer and that she should help him. Along the way, Liz shows a surprising capacity for observation, quick decision making, and common sense.

Liz’s personal life is a mess and she works as a research librarian at a major tech company. Her ability to learn and retain information is what helps keep her alive. She finds herself attracted to unsuitable men and this really is never explained. At one point she wonders why she always ends up dating married men, but there is no real explanation for this, nor does she seem actively interested in ascertaining why she makes the decisions she does in regards to men.   Instead, she wonders why she attracts the wrong kind of guy.

Harper’s very tired of the secret agent life or so he keeps telling himself and Liz. He wants this to be his last mission, his last case. But Liz thinks he really is addicted to the thrill. She notes that he is a man that runs toward danger and not away from it.

I felt like both Liz and Harper were very interesting characters but their story arcs weren’t taken far enough. Liz’s bad decision making in men is more of a gimmick that excuses her decision to be with Doug rather than utilized to make her a more three dimensional character. I felt more connected with Harper, but even his character arc seemed stunted. In some sense I felt that the beginning of character growth showed up at the end of the story which is more common with extended series books of which this could definitely be.

I found myself confused at times in the beginning but once both Liz and Harper are in Chicago, the story really took off and I was engrossed. Most all of the story seemed plausible which is an important aspect for a thriller. I would like to read another Harper/Liz story if you ever decide to write another.   This is a self published book but other than some formatting issues, the end product is indistinguishable from one that comes from a traditional publishing house.

For readers who like a fast paced action story with a decent hint of romance, I don’t think this would disappoint. B-

Best regards,


This book can be purchased at Amazon in Kindle format or at

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Christine Merrill
    Dec 14, 2009 @ 08:14:01

    Thanks for the review!

    And for people who are interested, but bothered by bad formatting, get the Lulu version, which is much cleaner.

    Uploading to Kindle is slow, adds a lot of errors (for me at least) and editing the finished product is not as intuitive as it should be. When I tried to fix things, I think I made them worse.

  2. Jane
    Dec 14, 2009 @ 09:33:58

    @Christine Merrill It was so much easier to buy the Kindle version. Have you considered submitting it to Fictionwise? Because you are a multi published author, I think you can do that.

  3. DS
    Dec 14, 2009 @ 10:52:13

    I grabbed the Kindle sample to check on whether I would be bothered by the formatting. Jane is right, it is much easier to by (buy, I meant buy!) the Kindle version. And the one time I tried to buy downloads from lulu I ended up very frustrated.

  4. Christine Merrill
    Dec 14, 2009 @ 11:10:19

    I tried to comment before, but I think it got lost in a bad internet connect. But the short answer is: it’s all about money.

    Fictionwise would take a much bigger portion of the profits. This is a shoestring project, and because of the economy, the shoestrings over here are short and frayed. I spent a total of $35 getting this book up and running. My goal was to earn enough money to pay for the redesign of my website, which I had to do anyway, and maybe have a guilt free Christmas.

    I put this project out with Lulu, because of a combination of ease of use, and high percetage of return for me, hoping that a reduced sales number would be offset by a higher net.

    And with Kindle, because I already had an Amazon account, it is the hot new thing for readers (actually one of them) and I was curious about sales numbers, since I don’t think my other books do that well over there. But sales of NTK are very transparent, from my end. I can see exactly what generates a purchase, and get a solid number, anytime I want.

    As far as Fictionwise goes: they’d take a higher percentage from me. And I think I would have to get an ISBN (which I’ve avoided so far because I doubt the size of bookstore and library purchases). If there is sufficient interest, and I feel I’ve exhausted the first 2 venues, then I might consider more money spent, higher production values, and wider distribution.

    The balance between what the writer needs, and what the reader wants is a very delicate one, and I’m working on it. Since I have several years of rejections, telling me this book has a very limited market, I’m probably a little too cautious. But I cannot financially afford to overextend.

  5. Jane
    Dec 14, 2009 @ 15:58:08

    @Christine Merrill As I was reading the book, I kept wondering why there would be a limited market. Is it because the heroine makes bad decisions in her personal life? Or the hero was too… average appearing in the beginning? I can see where it might not be a straight romance market, but maybe in the thriller/suspense market? That’s why I said at the beginning of the review that I wasn’t well versed in the thriller ouvre to notice what might be perceived as flaws.

  6. Christine Merrill
    Dec 14, 2009 @ 17:04:34

    I think the personalities of the characters wouldn’t really be a problem, if I’d chosen to write it as a romance, and give my characters a picket fence, 2 kids and a dog on the last page. If I could look everyone in the eye, point to the HEA and say “contemporary romantic comedy” it would have sold by now. But I felt they were nice people, but a little too screwed up to sustain a relationship, at this point in their lives. If I can’t sell myself on that HEA, I’m not going to convince anyone else.

    The majority of my audience is expecting a Regency historical. So it's hard to sell this as my breakout single title.

    And chick lit is dead. Or being published under a name I haven't learned yet. Also, there are not enough shoes, and the purse is only a Coach bag.

    The feedback I got on the “thriller” side was that it wasn’t complicated enough. Which I’d have definitely done, if I had a penis and testicles. I’d have ditched all that relationship stuff, and added more action. There was a certain cultural dissonance, a couple of days ago, when this was on the Amazon top 100 thriller/spy novel list with books by Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler.

    I suspect, my problem is, I think like a girl. But not enough like a girl, apparently.

    So by my choices, I'm cutting bits out of two potential audiences, which is hard on New York, since they want big numbers. But if I go e-publishing? Not erotica, m/m, paranormal, or any of the other big markets. And again, not a romance. My last rejection (from a reputable e-pub) said, that this would only sell a couple of dozen copies and would disappoint us all.

    It was at that point I decided to keep all the rights, register the copyright and do it myself.

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