Constant Craving by Tori Carrington
(Harl. Tempt. #716, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25816-X
***
First time author Tori Carrington is really the husband and wife writing duo of Lori and Tony Karayianni. Considering that I can't even get my husband to read a romance book, I am doubly impressed that Lori and Tony wrote one together. Following the successes of the various husband and wife romance writing teams, in particular Tom and Sharon Curtis, I suspect our newest duo will be warmly welcomed.

Posing as a geeky accountant, FBI agent Adam Grayson is trying to discover how money is being laundered in a New Jersey accounting firm. While he's attracted to Eva Burgess, he doesn't know if she's involved in the sophisticated and highly successful money laundering scheme. He may daydream about her and have major lust attacks, but he can't let his personal attraction interfere with his professional duties.

Eva Burgess has a favor to ask Adam. She's considered asking other men in her office, but geeky Adam seems the least threatening. She needs someone to pose as her husband for a weekend. She hasn't been home to Louisiana in more than a year, and she's just been told that her father is ill. She's afraid that the news of her recent divorce will be detrimental to his health. Her parents have never met her ex, so getting Adam to play the dutiful and loving husband will be the perfect solution to her dilemma. She's got it all planned out. Adam will fly with her to New Orleans, be lovey-dovey for a day, and then claim that he's got pressing business and has to fly back, with her family none the wiser.

Adam jumps at the chance to spend more time with Eva, but has to keep reminding himself that he's only interested in her for her possible knowledge in the money laundering scheme. A brief and seemingly forced scenario has Adam hurrying to get ready for Eva to pick him up. His ex-girlfriend has arrived, wanting to pick up some forgotten clothing. Adam grimaces as he remembers that "he'd accidentally washed a couple items of clothing she's left behind with his. A few pieces clearly marked Dry-Clean Only now sat in a faded, shrunken mess...." The ex-girlfriend is shrieking from the second floor window as Adam and Eva drive away. It's difficult to take someone seriously who's described as wearing red leggings and a gold lame top.

Heading toward the airport, Adam tells Eva what for me was implausible news, considering that he's an FBI agent who has to be ready to travel at the drop of a hat. He can't fly. He suffers from acrophobia. Eva is so desperate that she agrees to drive from New Jersey to her hometown near New Orleans.

When Adam and Eva finally get to her home, she discovers that her mother has lied. Her dear old dad is in perfect health. Mom just thought that it was time for Eva's family to finally meet her husband. The tangled web almost becomes a noose around Eva's neck. Also, the money laundering mystery has followed them. On the drive, they spot an intruder near their car. Adam is all set to capture the bad guy, then remembers that he's playing a geek. Geeks don't rescue fair maidens. So Adam lets the guy get away. Then more events occur at Eva's family home. How long can Adam keep up this geek persona and suppress his FBI training?

If the bodybuilding hunk on the cover can conceal those muscles and successfully pass himself off as a geek, then I think I'll audition for Miss Texas. He's Grade-A gorgeous. The sexual tension, developing since the first sentence of the book, reaches fulfillment in the last third of the book. Everything finally jells, but it's been a long time coming. It was hard to care for either character early in the book. Eva is one of those uptight women who won't enjoy life. Adam, although he lusts after Eva, really doesn't begin to appreciate her for a long time. Had this interest, this appreciation shown up sooner and been allowed to develop through more of the book, this relationship would have flowered sooner into a love story.

This story doesn't appear to be the work of novices. Occasionally I was bothered by the incomplete sentences, but overall I was impressed by this debut novel. When their writing broadens to include deeper, fuller characterizations, this duo may be on the road to stardom.

--Linda Mowery


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