|As a romance reader, I like my romances to get off to a quick start and involve me with the lovers right away. One of the most convincing ways to accomplish this is to reunite lovers, a couple with a History, which is exactly what Susan Andersen has done in Hot and Bothered.
Victoria Hamilton has come home from London to bury her father and exonerate her half-brother who is accused of stabbing him to death. Seventeen-year-old Jared ran out of his father’s library minutes before his father’s body was found, and he hasn’t been seen since. The Colorado Springs Police detective assigned to the case has decided that he has enough evidence to arrest Jared so there’s no need to keep working on the case. Consequently, Victoria has asked her lawyer to recommend a P.I. with expertise in finding runaways to find Jared.
John Miglionni is her lawyer’s choice. John is an ex-Marine who has formed a detective agency, Semper Fi, with two of his Marine buddies. While he was still a Marine, he had a fling with a woman he knew only as Tori. They agreed, at the start of their sand-and-surf idyll, not to exchange personal information, not even last names. So she was Tori and he was Rocket, his Marine nickname.
Before his week with Tori, John had been a real kiss-and-tell Lothario, regaling his buddies with all the details. Not with Tori, however. She was the first woman who was more than just another score for John, and he has never forgotten her. He is delighted when the door to the Hamilton mansion opens, and he recognizes her.
Victoria is less pleased even though she still feels a tug of attraction. She has a secret that she’s not sure she wants to share with Rocket, but John has something she needs…a track record for finding runaway teens. While she is filling John in on everything she can tell him about Jared, her secret walks in on two cute little legs. Five-and-a-half-year-old Esme insists on meeting the “‘tective,” so Victoria is forced to introduce her. John gives Esme his patented lady-killer smile and finds himself looking into the same eyes he sees every morning in the mirror when he shaves.
John and Victoria’s romance, and John’s adjustment to fatherhood, is one storyline; the hunt for Jared is the second. Jared panicked after his encounter with his father and fled to the nearest big city, Denver. He has very little money and is terrified of being arrested, so he is living on the streets. If Ms. Andersen’s depiction of the hazards and pitfalls awaiting teenage runaways is anywhere near accurate, every parent will agree with Victoria’s decision to hire John. Jared is isolated, exhausted because he is afraid to sleep at night, and…as he runs out of money…hungry. His options are grim.
The third, and least successful, strand to the story is the mystery of who killed Ford Evans Hamilton. In time-honored tradition, Victoria’s father is a thoroughly dislikable bully who was killed in the midst of a dinner party he was hosting, with his victims as guests. Victoria and John’s efforts to unmask the killer were only mildly interesting, and when they resolved the mystery, I found the killer’s motivation both unconvincing and overly complicated.
But, hey! Hot and Bothered, is a romance, right? Right. And Tori and John’s romance does keep the story rolling briskly along. Is it sensual enough to live up to its title, though, and to the really cute cover with the bikini hanging off the author’s name? Maybe not…and there are very good reasons why it shouldn’t. Victoria has serious problems, the sort of problems that are not conducive to romantic liaisons. The steam quotient rises sharply when she and John get together, but don’t expect the early-and-often the title seemed to promise.
I guess a book titled Hot, Bothered, and Very, Very Worried wouldn’t sell, would it?
--Nancy J Silberstein