|Bending the Rules by Susan Andersen is a funny romantic drama whose lead characters have sass - and lots of emotional baggage.
Detective Jason de Sanges is a serious robbery detective who leads his life strictly by the rules. He follows the law to the letter, works long days and has few close friends. He never lets his relationships get past the weekend phase, and thinks he’s pretty content.
Jase’s motivation for his straight and narrow existence is his family - but in a pretty negative way. He’s trying desperately not to fall into the family trap that he believes is a curse, that all the de Sanges males have bad blood. This bad blood leads them into a life of crime, and his brother Joe, his Dad and his Pops (grandfather) have spent nearly all of Jase’s life in prison. Jase was heading that way himself, until a compassionate cop named Murphy took him under his wing. Jase has been clinging to the good guy lifestyle by his nails ever since.
Poppy Calloway has led a completely different life from Jase’s hard luck one. She spent her first five years in a hippie commune, and has grown up free spirited, creative and loving. Poppy is the ultimate optimist. So, when she finds out that three young teens have been caught spray painting local businesses that she works with, she suggests that they be given the opportunity to work under her supervision on a community mural once they’ve cleaned up their mess.
Jase, who is working towards a promotion, is asked by his supervisor to attend the merchants’ meeting to discuss the graffiti problem. There he runs smack into Poppy’s idea of rewarding these mini thugs with an entire wall to paint and he just loses it. Jase and Poppy clash in the meeting until a compromise is reached: Poppy can have her project as long as Jason is supervising the young gangsters-to-be while they paint.
As Poppy and Jase get to know the kids and each other, they uncover some similarities that start a group friendship. Then, one of their group witnesses a crime and is seen by the criminal ringleader. While time ticks down, the criminal hunts the witness, Jase and Poppy fight to stay apart while their attraction starts to take over. Then one of Jason’s long-locked up family members shows up, complicating matters even more in their budding romance.
Bending the Rules has some good moments and some not-so-great ones.
Jason is the strand-out character for me. He is well-written and believable from his foul mouth to his funky suits. His past is laid out in every ugly, unflinching detail and outside of that, he’s grown into a fine man. If he comes off as strict and unbending, it’s completely understandable to the reader.
Poppy is more ethereal than defined in the story - she is supposed to be freewheeling and light hearted, which sometimes seemed rather stupid and immature. She acts without thinking, she runs into dangerous situations, she is mercilessly unaware of her surroundings. It’s amazing that she made it to adulthood without protection.
While I can see how the fun-loving hippie type would work for Jason in theory, to help loosen him up and warm him, it doesn’t work for me with Poppy. It just seemed like Jason was settling for the first woman to put up with his family background and tell him he’s a good man.
Bending the Rules is a cute little story with a dynamic hero. Unfortunately, the heroine falls flat in this one, and so the love story deflates midway through the tale.