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REVIEW: Fugitive Color by Z.A. Maxfield

Fugitive Color by Z.A. MaxfieldDear Ms. Maxfield:

I think I need to read more romantic suspense and/or more romantic murder mysteries. If they’re all as good as this, I’m missing out on some good stuff. Then again, I’m not sure how to write this review without giving everything away. But here goes.

This is a short book: 150 pages. But you pack so much into it without making it seem as if you’re missing anything. Max is an artist, a brilliant artist who makes a lot of money off his art. But he’s…fragile, in the way so many artists (apparently) are. Maybe this is why he likes to paint strength, particularly the bodies of ballerinas. His 16 year old muse, Elena, turns up missing, though, and then turns up dead. And he’s the only suspect.

I love Max’s inexorable forced march through the justice system, and his acceptance that justice is doing its work, however misguided that work is. His acceptance is part and parcel of his own search for the underlying strength in things: the strength behind the beauty of a ballerina’s body, his own unacknowledged strength in surviving his childhood, his own search for a future he can understand.

Sumner is a police artist sent to draw a possible suspect that Max saw Elena with. But he’s really sent to try to establish a relationship with Max, to perhaps break down Max’s barriers so he’ll talk. He’s had a crush on Max, the famous artist, for a long time, and is happy to get to know Max better, and becomes Max’s rock during the events that unfold. Sumner is great: flawed and young and both sure and unsure of his feelings for a man he has only known for a few days who is suspected of murder and you don’t shy away from any of the implications of his uncertainty.

I guessed who the real murderer was pretty quickly, but I adored seeing how the plot unfolded, how all would be revealed, how all the characters would react. The big reveal seems a little derivative of some other romantic suspense I’ve read, but perhaps there are only so many ways that things can happen, especially in a short book with a small cast.

I still loved the plot and enjoyed watching it unfold, because you have a gift for creating unique characters. Max, Sumner, the police lieutenant, and the other characters all had wonderfully distinct personalities, and it was the process of watching them interact that made the book so worth reading.

Just a small niggle, but I know for some it’ll be pretty large: the editing purely sucked. Twice (that I noticed) there were very bad misplacements of names. At the very end, there’s a substitution of the villain’s name for one of the heroes, and somewhere else, the heroes get mixed up. There are smaller issues, but those are the big ones and in a good book, these issues just make me cringe.

So, readers, if you want a quick, edge-of-your-seat story, with great characters, but very few surprises, this story should be high on your TBR. I loved it, despite the lack of plot originality. I read romances, after all. It’s all about the characters.

Grade: B

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

Book Link | Loose ID |

Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.


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    May 13, 2010 @ 04:04:08

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  2. hapax
    May 13, 2010 @ 13:08:22

    This looks like it might be a fun read, but as a dead-tree fetishist, I’d rather get the print copy (despite the icky cover).

    I can’t find this in trade pb at Loose Id or NAL or anywhere else, though. Are you sure about the availability?

  3. Sarah Frantz
    May 13, 2010 @ 13:22:01

    @hapax: Not quite sure where that came from. I’m going to change it now. This is a Loose Id book, so atm it’s probably just e. They might release it as a paper book in the future, but not right now.

  4. Jane
    May 13, 2010 @ 13:28:57

    @hapax Sorry about that. I use a quicktag to insert the buy links and that is part of the quicktag and I forgot to delete it.

  5. Zola
    May 13, 2010 @ 16:22:40

    There was so much that disappointed me about this book. Especially since the set up seemed really interesting when I read the excerpt on Loose-id: an artist whose paintings are subtly changed overnight, his missing model who later turns up dead, the sketch artist who has a major crush on him and doesn’t want to believe the evidence against him. All pointed to a potentially amazing story.

    But the story was too short, Max too passive and unsympathetic a character, and Sumner’s emotional vacillation felt too undeveloped (but that traces back to the length). I also guessed the villain pretty quickly, but the V’s motivation was so…on the nose, is the only way I can explain it, and cliched that it made me grit my teeth.

    I’m not going to get started on the editing or we’ll be here all day, but I will say that I found the excerpt to be the most well-edited part of the novella(?).

    Oh, and maybe it’s just me, but Max’s thoughts about Elena seemed too Man Without a Face-ish to me.

  6. Joan/SarahF
    May 13, 2010 @ 17:56:47

    @Zola: Well, I can see how you’d feel that way (not that you need my approval or anything). I just…enjoyed it. ::shrug:: To each his own.

  7. cs
    May 13, 2010 @ 20:26:25

    @Zola: I read another review that echoed your sentiments. I’m glad you commented, because this author is on the neutral scale for me. I was a bit thrown with the other review and this review, because they were so polar opposite. However, your comment cemented it for me. I’ll give this a miss.

  8. Renee
    May 14, 2010 @ 20:14:17

    Thanks for the review! I just read ePistols at Dawn last week, and really enjoyed ZA Maxfield’s style. This sounds like a good place to start with reading more of her backlist.

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