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REVIEW: Line of Fire by Julie Elizabeth Leto

Dear Ms. Leto,

My main problems with romantic suspense books are that sooner or later, someone’s got to act like an idiot or lose all common sense in order to have a reason to save or be saved. No way around this, it seems. I just prefer to not see characters I’m supposed to like acting like morons. So, why do I keep reading this type book? Because there are some rom susp books which have worked wonderfully for me and I’m always looking for the next one. The critical factor appears to be: can the author persuade me to go along with the characters and their actions or does my kitty get an ear load as I complain?

Attorney Faith Lawton steps outside the courthouse. Shots ring out from a nearby rooftop. The concrete around Faith explodes with expended bullets as a pair of strong arms pulls her back into the building….

Faith Lawton welcomes the strong embrace of chief of detectives Adam Guthrie-’for the moment. His fast actions save her life. But it’s nothing personal. They’re adversaries in the courtroom and out-’in spite of their often sexually charged exchanges. Now Adam’s convinced she was the target, and that the shooter may strike again. Despite her protests, he’s out to find the gunman. And until he does, Adam isn’t about to let her go…

The book has a fast paced start with instant conflict between hero and heroine. And the conflict is solid and not some flimsy pretext for a romance separation. Police detective and defense attorney – yeah, as Adam thinks, they’re cats and dogs. Though since my cat and dog get along, there are times when these things can work out. But there’s also an already established mutual attraction and, very important here, respect between Faith and Adam. I like that they can flirt and still respect each other and the work the other does even though most of the time, they’re on opposing sides in the courtroom.

Faith has reasons beyond money for doing what she does – representing defendants and insisting on the legal procedure being above board despite what her clients are accused of doing. Yeah, watching someone who probably did what a lot of these clients are accused of get off free would scrape me the wrong way but the letter of the law should be applied to all.

And Adam respects this and doesn’t whinge when his department screws up. He notes the flaw and works to implement procedures to prevent it from being repeated. Faith’s work pushes him to be a better cop which isn’t a bad thing all around.

Faith starts out smart, self sufficient, knowing when to argue with Adam and – when the bullets start to fly – when to listen to him, if her instincts didn’t already tell her to do the same thing. Effing duck behind cover. She’s also compassionate and offers to stay in place – though out of the line of fire so it’s not like she’s acting stupidly – to call encouragement to one of the sniper’s victims. At this point, I’m thinking “characters I like, realistic conflict – we’re off to a great start.”

After Faith and Adam finally get the leave the courthouse, Adam rules out Faith going back to her house since no one is sure whether she was the intended target of the sniper but he okays a stay at the apartment above her foster parents’ restaurant. Then in a 180 they’re headed to her house. What happened with this? Suddenly it’s okay to head back to her pad since now they’re going to be distracted by sex? What happened to the thought that one of them might have been the sniper’s intended target?

Yet I like that Faith is sexually secure, knows what she wants, gives as good as she gets but demands getting something good. Go Faith. A question though. Why have Faith adopted by Hawaiians? Interesting cultural aspects get daubed on the story but did this really make a difference or was it just used to add multiculturalism to the book? I’m just curious.

Adam is dedicated and good at his job, good in bed, good in the kitchen and good on the dance floor. Wow, I’m in total agreement with Faith here – the boy’s a keeper. Does he pick up his dirty clothes too? But….what’s his flaw? No one is totally perfect.

Then the “sag and drag” middle section comes along. Slowly amassing and dismissing a list of suspects is the kind of tedious police work that generally doesn’t make the cut into a book, film or show. There’s a reason for this. Show me a little for realism but don’t bog the book down. Just as I was sinking into procedural ennui, shots ring out and the story revs up again. Thank you for that but ‘uh-oh’ about how Faith acts next.

She realizes she’s in love with Adam and common sense seems to fly out of her head. Which I guess would happen when someone you love gets shot even if you didn’t know you loved them already. She tries to hurl herself into danger when Adam is injured then generally gets in the way, acting like an ass and insists on seeing and talking with him before he goes into surgery. She decides after he’s shot that she can’t face a life of watching him put himself in danger then 15 minutes later she’s arguing with the chief of police about whether he has anything against her relationship with Adam.

At this point, I’m on the fence about the final grade. The romance, though sometimes inappropriately timed, is working fairly well though the suspense elements were wobbling around. Working at first then getting iffy as Faith and Adam would talk themselves into acting a certain way because the danger is over, or the suspect has been neutralized or they can’t possibly still be the target. And I know that this is like the girl in a horror movie going downstairs to check out the suspicious noise. Somebody’s gonna end up dead or hurt real soon.

The final suspenseful element notched the grade up. It arises because Adam is doing what he actually feels will keep Faith safe and she has no reason to believe, at that point, that she will become a target. Plus she keeps her head when taken hostage and by that makes up for some of the idiot things she did earlier. I like the addition of the information that Adam feels no exultation for what he has to do, only regret for the necessity.

You show, at various times in the book, that there are times when logic decides to take a coffee break and emotions that we can’t control take over otherwise sane and reasonable people. This I can tolerate a bit better than the idiot “talk myself out of doing the smart thing” I so often see in suspense books.

I do get the feeling that, as Adam says, these two really respect, as well as care for, each other. They’re balanced and working together to sort out their relationship and make it work. Though I can’t help but think that there will be differences, I can see them sorting through any issues or problems that arise due to their respective professions.

~Jayne

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

9 Comments

  1. JulieLeto
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 16:20:45

    Hi, Jayne. First, thank you for the reviewing the book. I’m wondering why you picked this book to review since it was out in 2004 and I’ve written about 20 books since then (including a book that was just released two weeks ago,) but nonetheless, I value reviews at DA and it was a nice blast from the past.

    The book was a continuity, which means the bulk of the plot wasn’t mine. Continuities are series designed by the editors at Harlequin. Each author is “assigned” a book and a bible that outlines the whole of the series. Your characters are assigned, their names, occupations, the villain, the basic storyline, key plot points, etc, and it’s the author’s job to make it all work.

    To be painfully honest, I don’t remember a lot of the circumstances you’re describing so I can’t speak to those. I know that sounds awful…but like I said, 20 books since then–20 that were all mine! But I can answer the question about the Hawaiian aspect.

    You asked why…I answer with why not? I wanted Faith, who was so serious and driven and had such a sad childhood, to have an anchor in a life that was not so serious, but more focused on things like hospitality and a sense of family and fun. If I remember correctly, I decided that she wore puka beads with her suit first–it was an image that stuck in my mind. The rest of the backstory built from there. Though Adam’s character was fairly sketched out for me by Harlequin, Faith was more of a blank page, so I filled it with elements I liked. (The fact that her mother had gone to prison for a crime she did not commit–which spurred her to become a defense attorney–was not my idea, though I hoped I made it work.)

    And yes, I do like writing multicultural characters. I had a good friend who was Hawaiian and I loved her culture, so I used it. I often write about multicultural characters–mostly Hispanic and Italian–but I’ve done others, too. That’s the world I live in.

    I learned a great deal about myself as a writer by tackling this continuity, but I’ll admit there were elements of the story I would never have written if the book had been entirely my own. You didn’t take issue with one of them–thankfully! It’s bugged me since I wrote the book. But I had no choice but try and make it fit. The romance part was mine and that seemed to work for you, so for that I’m very grateful!

  2. Jayne
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 17:31:15

    Julie, I had no idea the book was written in 2004. Is Harlequin rereleasing the Courage Bay series? Because I just bought this and one other book in the series last month. And BTW, I adored the way Faith’s foster sister would playfully encourage Faith to flirt with Adam.

  3. JulieLeto
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 19:53:53

    Okay…this is news to me! I had no idea that they were re-releasing the series! This could be exciting…honesty, I could not for the life of me imagine where you’d dug up a copy of this old book that had such limited release. The authors are always the last to know, LOL! Was it an ebook? I hear they are putting out a lot of backlist titles.

    I’m glad you liked Faith’s interaction with her sister. The sister was a character I really liked quite a bit. Malia, right? (Isn’t that awful that I can’t remember and I don’t have a book handy!) That whole aspect of the book was my invention, so I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    I really did appreciate the review…it just shocked me!

  4. Jayne
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 05:02:30

    Yep, I bought it as an ebook from eharlequin. It’s only available from them as an ebook but there are print copies at Amazon. The series is called “Code Red” so I guess I should edit the review to add that tag. Right now, it looks like there are five books total.

    The foster sister’s name is Kalani and I thought she was a scream.

  5. GrowlyCub
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 07:16:16

    I got a copy of the first in this series (Code Red) as a ‘surprise’ gift from Harlequin. I thought it was singularly inappropriate because it was in answer to a questionnaire in which I had just made a strong point about how much I dislike romantic suspense…

  6. Jayne
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 08:59:26

    That is bizarre and a strange way to try and “convert” you to romantic suspense. If that was the intention. Or maybe it was just a f-up?

  7. JulieLeto
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 09:04:27

    Kalani! I do remember…Malia is just a favorite Hawaiian name of mine. I’ve always liked it. Either way, I’m excited that they’re re-releasing it, however they’re doing it. I didn’t have much more to go before I earned out my advance and started earning royalties, LOL! With a continuity, since the books are SO closely related, readers don’t generally want to read them unless they can get the others, so a re-release means they have to do 12 books and not just one. I always liked the book (even if I might have plotted it a bit differently with more leeway,) but thought it was gone, gone, gone. It’s nice to know it’s still out there.

    Growly, that’s just weird. They’re usually really good about reading those surveys and giving you what you want.

    The series concept, I thought, was strong. A small community on the California coast–all focused on rescue/police/emergency personnel. I thought the covers were strong, too. (Even if my heroine would NEVER wear such a conservative suit ) I really thought it would take off…not sure why it didn’t, except that free-standing continuities had been losing ground as a product right around that time and up until now. Now, continuities WITHIN a line (this one would have worked great in Silhouette Romantic Suspense, for instance) seem to be the new trend.

  8. Diana Peterfreund
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 20:47:17

    YOU’RE KIDDING. Julie, you put a “Kalani” in your book? I swear I didn’t know!

    (I named a character after Julie in my last book. She was Kalani Leto-Taube.)

  9. JulieLeto
    Jun 22, 2009 @ 08:33:24

    Okay, Diana…that’s just weird. :-) Aw, well…great minds.

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