Little Miss Innocent




In Too Deep by Lori Foster
(Harl. Tempt. #770, $3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25870-4
Category romances have a short shelf life, a sad fact of publishing. If you're reading this review before you've bought your own copy of In Too Deep, I'd seriously advise you to stop what you're doing and go get the book NOW. Run . . . do not walk. You'll really be angry with yourself if you miss your chance. This book is charming, delightful, with a Hero Deluxe, and just plain fun to read.

P.I. Harry Lonnigan is in a neighborhood convenience store, covertly watching two hoods who've been shaking down the elderly residents. He notices immediately the woman who's there, getting in his way. He can't decide if she has really bad taste in clothes or is a cross dresser. While she may be trying to look like a man, Harry isn't fooled for a minute. Her lips and butt are too appealing to belong to a man. What amazes him is that nobody else sees through her disguise.

When the two hoods begin to harass her, Harry steps in. He doesn't consider himself a hero, but he detests bullies. His heroism surfaces when she gets slapped and -- quicker than you can snap your fingers, Harry and the young woman are hostages, being taken at gunpoint.

Charlie Jones is having a really bad day. Her disguise doesn't work, she's being kidnapped by Dumb and Dumber and to top it off, the do-gooder who's helped her is the first man to raise her blood pressure in years. Mercy, he's a hunk! Getting away from their kidnappers is just the beginning of the adventures that are in store for Harry and Charlie.

What Harry soon learns, much to his chagrin, is that Charlie is the estranged daughter of his best friend and father figure. Charlie wants to hire him to spy on her father, and her father wants Harry to pretend to work for Charlie, all the while dropping hints that she and her sister weren't really abandoned. Poor Harry and his tangled web. His admiration and loyalty to Charlie's father mean that he's got to help with the reconciliation, but what's Harry going to do about his lusty interest in this quirky young woman.

In other stories I've read, all too frequently one of the lead characters outshines the other, but not here. There's such an even balance and warmth that surrounds each character. While I found Harry to be irresistible, Charlie is no slouch in the charm department, either. Yes, he's more urbane, with a polished air, but her diamond in the rough personality shines through. Here's how Charlie describes him.

Harry was different. He was outrageous but he made her laugh and his outrageousness wasn't a threat or an insult, but rather a game, a certain charming wit that he employed with skill.

It's unusual to find a woman who's the aggressor, who's not afraid to let the hero know that she's hot for his bod. Charlie has no such inhibitions. She wants every luscious inch of Harry. This candor adds such a spark to their relationship.

If you haven't bought In Too Deep yet, ignore the cover. It's a double ugh! The artist's representation of Harry is acceptable, but he's very overshadowed by poor Charlie, who's supposed to be petite and diminutive. This cover colossus reminded me of, a woman who looks like she can beat Jesse Ventura at arm wrestling.

One thing that's different about this book is the level of sexuality. It's more understated here. If you're expecting a typical Lori Foster scorcher, you won't get it. However, don't feel for a minute that you're getting cheated. There's a wonderful tradeoff. Charlie and Harry seem so much more alive, so much more ready to step off the pages.

We've all read books where the prose is, at best, plodding. It seems forced, with no natural feel or rhythm to it. Again, not here. Several times while I was reading ITD, I marveled at how much I was enjoying what I was reading, being pulled into the story. I equate that to watching ice skating. Michelle Kwan makes those spins and jumps look effortless . . . which is a mark of real talent. Lori Foster's writing seems to rival Michelle's skating. Both appear to be effortless. And both appear to be headed for the gold.

--Linda Mowery

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