Dear Ms. Garwood:
This review of Lion’s Lady posted at Smart Bitches is fomenting a desire to reread your backlist (I liked Guardian Angel a bit more than Lion’s Lady). However your latest release is a contemporary. The Ideal Man is a solid entry into the Garwood bibliography but I still long for the magic that resonated in the historicals.
Ellie Sullivan is finishing a surgery fellowship at St. Vincent’s Hospital in St. Louis. Like all Garwood heroines, she’s well beloved, a prodigy, and beautiful. (This is actually as rare as a unicorn. I was told by one beautiful woman, a bit bitterly, that it is better to be pretty because few women want to be friends with a truly beautiful woman because she’s just too much temptation. I don’t know if that is true, but she was so beautiful that even I couldn’t take my eyes off her the entire dinner!) But as much as Ellie loves her position and her work, her life isn’t all rainbows and Care Bears.
Ellie’s sister, Ava, is marrying Ellie’s former fiance soon. A man who had abducted her as a twelve year old is rumored to be in town and then Ellie inadvertently becomes entangled in an FBI sting in a park while running and sees an FBI agent shot. Ellie may have seen the faces of the Landrys, a couple that the FBI have been tracking.
Agent Max Daniels is investigating the Landrys. While he shouldn’t be romancing a witness, that doesn’t prevent him from taking her out. Believability is a biggest problem in this book but seriously who reads Garwood books for believability and accuracy? We read them (and enjoy them) because of the characters. The strength lies in the rapport between Max and Ellie. It’s classic Garwood relationship conflict. Max, shaken by his attraction toward Ellie, treats her brusquely much to the amusement of everyone around him. Regardless, he is going to pursue Ellie:
Max started to pull the door closed but stopped abruptly. He stood for a second as though weighing his thoughts before saying, “Are there any good restaurants around here?”
“If you like Italian, you should go to The Hill. There’s a great restaurant called The Trellis. You’ll love it. It’s casual dress. You’ll see everything from suits to shorts.”
“Okay. I’ll pick you up at seven tomorrow night.”
He shut the door before she had time to react.
I also found that Ellie was a sharper, sassier heroine that I’ve read in the past in Garwood books and a little arrogant (as Ellie points out she has to be confident in her abilities to be a successful surgeon):
She crossed one leg over the other and noticed he was noticing. They were at a stop sign, but he didn’t seem to be in a hurry to move on.
“When you’re finished checking out my legs, turn left.”
And there is some good humor. After Max spends the entire time discussing the case with Ellie over dinner and scaring her (two witnesses have gone missing and one was killed in a hit and run), he realizes that it might not have been the best dinner date conversation:
Determined to change her mood, he said, “Tell me something.”
“On a scale of one to ten, how’s the date going so far?”
But all the good dialogue and good characterization fades when we read scenes from the bad guys point of view because it swings the focus back onto the weak parts of the story: the unbelieveable mystery/suspense, a bad court scene, and Ellie’s personal conflict with her family. Too much time was spent away from Max and Ellie.
It wasn’t enough that Ellie’s life was put in danger by one crazy set of people (the Landrys), but she had to be in danger from the former abductor. Further, Ellie’s amazing capacity to forgive her family for slights was a little incredible. She figured that because she had been abducted and because she had been a prodigy, she had caused her family enough pain. Further, she even was separated from her family because of the abduction. I already liked Ellie as the smart-brained and smart-mouth competent surgeon. I didn’t need her to be totally isolated, treated like shit by her sister (the same sister who slept with Ellie’s fiance after the 2 days of acquaintance), and in constant danger for her to be sympathetic.
There were very few scenes from Max’s point of view, leaving me feeling like I barely knew him. I knew he was an FBI agent and that he came from a big loving family. I knew he lived in Honolulu and that he enjoyed his job. But what made Max an individual remained a mystery at the end of the book.
I almost felt like this book would have worked better as a straight up contemporary versus a romantic suspense. We would have gotten more of the relationship scenes and more of Max’s point of view – all of the good stuff. C