Duets 93

Private Lies by Wendy Etherington
(Harl. Tempt. # 944, $4.25, R) ISBN 0-373-69144-0
Wendy Etherington has written a familiar story but with a different twist and it works. Private Lies is one of the better Temptation entries I have read.

Roxanne Lewis is an accountant in a family of cops, and is happy to be different. Her mother was killed when she was younger (the full story is never really detailed) and there is no way Roxanne wants to take the chance on loving a cop. She needs and wants security and safety above all else. She has found herself in love and engaged to Gage Dabon. Gage is a financial planner – Roxanne figures you can’t get much safer than that.

One day, Roxanne and best friend Toni catch Gage in a lie. He has told Roxanne, whom he is living with, that he is out of town in Chicago. Toni spots him in the French Quarter in their hometown of New Orleans. When Roxanne tries to question him, she can tell he isn’t telling her the truth. What to do? Toni convinces her to dress in disguise and follow him as Toni is certain they will find him with a blonde bombshell draped all over him.

Oh, but Gage is an interesting man. He actually leads two lives. One of these lives is with Roxanne, in their house, where he is calm, cool and boring. The other is on his job, where he is an undercover officer for the Secret Service (in the Treasury Department). He is currently involved in an investigation of a mobster suspected of counterfeiting. Why didn’t Gage tell her he is a cop, one might ask? Because he knows her concerns and is afraid if he tells her she will leave him. His mother divorced his father partly because of his job (his dad is in the Secret Service, too) and not only left her son, but rejected his love.

This dual life thing is the familiar part. There are nagging questions, like: could Gage really hide his true self while they were living together? What did he expect to do once they got married? But once I decided to accept this premise, then the rest of the story works. If you can’t get past this and start wanting answers to all these questions, then the rest of the story is doomed.

So Roxanne and Toni end up smack dab in the middle of the investigation and create havoc. Gage takes Roxanne with him and decides to keep her at his side and as his “partner” in order to ensure he doesn’t lose her in his life. He sends Toni home but she is feisty and keeps popping up at the wrong times.

How they get the bad guy is great fun, complicated by both Roxanne and Gage questioning their feelings and enjoying the greatest sex of their relationship. It seems that this whole episode has opened up Gage’s wild side and this turns Roxanne on. Roxanne on the other hand discovers that all those “I love danger” genes that were passed down to her family did not pass her by. Their sex is hot and heavy, but there are a few nice elements of romance that just melt your heart.

The cast of supporting characters is minimal, but well written and enhances the story. The bad guys are bad and the good guys prevail.

What makes Private Lies such an enjoyable story are Roxanne and Gage. Their transformations work because Etherington allows you in their heads and let you understand their thinking. Neither is stupid, and this is seen time after time. Yet both are vulnerable, and this too is shown. They complement each other. Gage has just enough Alpha and Roxanne has just enough sass. Gage ultimately wins her love, but he has to work for it. And Roxanne doesn’t let little things steer her aside from her fears, until she actually confronts her fears head on.

Private Lies gets my recommendation due to the strength of the characters. The plotline has some holes, but once you get into it, this is an excellent romantic adventure.

--Shirley Lyons

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