Welcome to our series called “If You Like” which will be hosted by various readers, authors and bloggers of Dear Author. The purpose of the post and the comments is to explore what we like about a particular iconic author and what other authors have books like the iconic author. This week, we are featuring Allison Brennan whose latest release, Playing Dead, was released on September 30, 2008.
Author Mary-Francis Makichen put together this wonderful contribution for us to read, appreciate, and use as a reference point for the future. Thanks Mary-Francis.
If you would like to host an If You Like piece, please email me at jane at dearauthor.com
If You Like Allison Brennan
I can’t remember where I first heard about Allison Brennan. What I do remember is reading the The Prey and being captivated by heroine Rowan Smith-’a former FBI agent turned bestselling author. Rowan gets pulled into the search for a killer when people start turning up dead just like the victims in her book. To further complicate her life, her bodyguards turn out to be two hunky brothers who both vie for her affection.
It was probably then and there that I discovered romantic suspense. My reading before that had been straight mysteries and thrillers. I especially loved the mysteries that featured a relationship as part of the plot. When I stumbled upon Brennan’s books it was like a whole new world of reading opened up to me. I love a good book of suspense and I’m a sucker for a happy ending, so romantic suspense was a perfect fit for me.
Brennan’s books are written as a connected series. So, minor characters in one book become the main characters in the next. Also, several of the books center around the Kincaid family.
Brennan’s books are contemporary. We don’t necessarily know exactly when, but references to current technology place them firmly in the here and now.
USA, both small towns and larger cities, mainly out west. Some of the larger city settings include Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco. One of her books is set in the Centennial Valley of Montana.
Competent professionals almost always involved in law enforcement or the justice system.
Most of Brennan’s heroines are in law enforcement, either FBI agents or police detectives. Some are former officers who get pulled back into a case or crime. Others are unconnected to law enforcement. In Killing Fear, the heroine is a former stripper and in Tempting Evil, a romance writer.
What I like about her heroines is that they are savvy, resourceful women who are good at what they do. They often carry a lot of emotional baggage but that doesn’t stop them from moving forward and doing what needs to be done. Trust seems to be a recurring issue for the heroines in most of the books. Something has happened in their past that either makes them distrust men specifically or the world in general. Part of the tension in her books is the heroine and hero building trust and working together:
From Fear No Evil
“You’re under just as much stress as I am. Perhaps more."
He looked at her oddly. "Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. Right now I need to find my sister. What is your program telling you?"
“It’s still working.
Frustration crossed his face and it took all of Kate’s willpower not tell him about her conversation with Trask.
"Dammit, Kate, what aren’t you telling me?"
Kate stared at him and Dillon ran a hand through his hair He was grasping at straws, trying to find his sister in the proverbial haystack. Patrick was in a coma and Lucy was going to die.
And this woman-’this renegade FBI agent-’was holding back.
Brennan’s heroines can be reckless, risk takers when it comes to solving a crime or uncovering the truth. In general they are focused, capable and determined. They are extremely loyal to their friends and own cause or sense of justice. I would say that career comes first for most of them, but once they meet up with the hero they tend to want more balance in their lives between career and family. These are women I’d want to be friends with-’after their lives are not in jeopardy, of course.
Like the heroines, Brennan’s male protagonists are usually either current or former members of law enforcement: FBI agents, police detectives, sheriffs and even a forensic psychiatrist.
Brennan’s heroes are professional men, but not unnecessarily aggressive or overbearing. They are men of action who don’t like to sit on the sidelines. They aren’t afraid to be in the thick of things. They are determined to solve whatever problem is on their plate, which often means hunting down a killer while keeping the heroine alive. Tough guys who care-’family, friends, and colleagues are all important to them.
Here’s an exchange between Dillon and his sister Carina from Speak No Evil.
". . .By the way I like him," said Dillon.
"Him who?. . ."
"You were just lecturing me about what he was doing hanging around the case."
"Hmm, not quite. I was just curious, mostly."
Carina playfully hit him.
"Seriously, I like him. He’s one of the good guys."
Carin shook her head. "Get out of her so I can lock up. I’ll meet you at the morgue." She didn’t know what to make of Dillon’s pronouncement, but decided not to look too deeply at it. It made her feel, well, like a teenager again when Dillon put his stamp of approval on her boyfriends.
Plot (action-oriented vs character driven): Both
Brennan writes suspense, so of course action drives the story forward. However, I think she delivers a nice balance between action and letting the reader get inside the head of her characters. Solving the crime or case moves the plot forward but if she didn’t let readers get to know the characters, I don’t think we would care about the outcome. She does, so we do.
Pace (slow/medium/fast): Fast
In all of Brennan’s books there is a ticking clock. Someone’s life is already in danger and they need to be saved, or a killer will strike again if they are not stopped. Brennan throws real obstacles in her hero and heroine’s path so they are always pushing through roadblocks or deciphering evidence.
Writing Style (simple vs. ornate): Simple
I’m not sure that simple is the best word to describe Brennan’s writing. I’d actually say straightforward. Her books clip along at a fast pace and there aren’t long passages of description. Brennan’s characters are generally trained observers so the reader gets information about setting or other characters through point of view observations.
Dialogue (lots/little/balanced): Balanced
Brennan’s books are not solely comprised of dialogue. There is a nice blend between the internal narrative of her characters and the dialogue.
From Killing Fear
It was when he and Carina met back up at the front that realized exactly what was wrong.
"Where are the lights? Virtually every house in this neighborhood had security lights. A cat walks across the yard, and spotlights come on."
"If the power was cut, wouldn’t the alarm company have called? Checked it out?"
"If the security system was activated."
Will hesitated. If he was wrong and Descario had left town or was out with his girlfriend tonight, he’d be putting the department in a bad light. Cops breaking into homes. Still, an escaped convict had threatened the former district attorney. What more probable cause did he need?
Humor (Yes/No-Serious/Some): Some
Brennan’s characters find themselves in some pretty serious and scary situations. There can’t be too much humor involved when you’re tracking down a killer or a kidnapped sister. Still, even cops and FBI agents take a break now and again so you’ll find the occasional humorous exchanges in her books.
From Speak No Evil
"Cara darling." Her mom came out of the walk-in pantry, a smile on her round face. "Let me get the fruit salad from the refrigerator. Do you want some toast?"
Carina jumped, blushed. Had she ever blushed before? She didn’t think so. But her mom had caught her thinking about sex and Carina was positive her mother could read minds.
"No, Mama, I’m fine. Really."
Her mother stared at her closely, eyes narrow. Carina put on a blank face and pushed all thoughts of Nick’s naked body from her mind. "What did you eat this morning? You don’t eat breakfast so don’t lie to me."
Food. Her mom’s favorite pastime was feeding her so maybe she hadn’t see the lust on her face. "I had coffee."
Emotional Angst (High/Medium/Low): Medium
Many of Brennan’s characters have emotional scars from the past. They wrestle with their emotional angst but they are reluctant to include anyone else in their inner turmoil. The angst lies just below the surface. It’s a part of the character but it doesn’t dominate the storyline.
Conflict (Externally driven/Internally driven/Both): Both
This is suspense, so the main conflict you encounter in Brennan’s books is good vs. evil. It’s usually killer, kidnapper, stalker, or child predator vs. dedicated law enforcement professional. After that you have the internal conflict of characters trying to deal with their own emotional demons. Plus, you have the hero and heroine coming to terms with their attraction for one another.
Heat Level (kisses/warm/hot/scorching): Hot
There are generally one or two sex scenes in each of Brennan’s books, and they are pretty hot.
From The Prey:
She had scars. He kissed an obvious gunshot wound that had grazed her lower right rib. It looked like a knife wound had damaged her upper arm, an old one. He kissed it. Unclasping her bra, he held her breasts in his hands and caressed them. He looked down at her face. Her eyes were closed and her mouth was open. The tears had stopped.
He never wanted to see her cry again.
He kissed one breast, pulled in the nipple to suckle, and she moaned. He repeated the attention on the other breast, enjoying the way she responded to his touch. . .
. . .Pushing those thoughts from her mind, she reached down and felt his firm buttocks. She dug in her fingers and he thrust forward. He was rigid against her and she wanted him. She kissed him, and he took her mouth deep in his, his hands never stopping, touching her all over, keeping her warm, making her hot.
Going back through Allison Brennan’s books to write this has made me realize once again why I like this writer. Great suspense, really likeable characters and excellent pacing that you can ride like a wave from start to finish.
If You Like Allison Brennan, You’ll Like. . .
To quote others who’ve come before me, this is the hard part! Trying to figure out what authors to recommend if you like Allison Brennan has made me realize that it’s not easy to quantify why we like one author over another. Sometimes the way a writer tells a story just resonates with you and it’s hard to say exactly why. Still, here some humble suggestions.
Karen Rose is another author that I love to read. Like Allison Brennan, she writes romantic suspense. In the books I’ve read, the lead characters have been in law enforcement or part of the legal system. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed I’m Watching You, Count to Ten and Die for Me. I’m still working my way through all her books, thankfully, so I still have more to read. The suspense is dramatic and there’s been a twist or two along the way that I didn’t see coming. Her characters are interesting and somehow I think she manages to make them different.
Sandra Brown is an amazing writer and storyteller. Her writing is seamless and she’s a master at suspense. If you like Allison Brennan, I would definitely check out Sandra Brown. Some of the titles that I’ve read and loved are: Fat Tuesday, Hello Darkness, The Chill Factor, White Hot, and Ricochet.
Those are just a couple of suggestions. If you like Allison Brennan, please help me out and recommend some other authors as well. Thanks!