Julie Garwood has never been one of my favorite historical authors. I found her medievals formulaic and unconvincing although I did enjoy some of her earlier western romances. I believe that part of my problem with her novels resided in the fact that her voice seemed unrelentingly contemporary, whatever the setting of her story. My considerable enjoyment of her second contemporary romantic suspense novel convinces
me that this is the case. Her voice and style are absolutely perfect for this kind of tale.
The setting is rural Louisiana. Michelle Renard is the daughter of Big Daddy Jake Renard, owner of the Swan, the favorite (and only) watering hole in the tiny town of Bowen. Michelle was the apple of her father’s eye, so when one of her teachers came to Jake with the stunning news that his little girl was, simply put, a genius, Jake made sure she had a good education. Now Mike - as she is known to her family and friends -
has finished medical school and her surgical residency and she’s ready to fulfill a lifelong dream: to bring high quality medical care to her hometown.
On one of her last evenings in New Orleans, Michelle accompanies a friend to a fancy dinner. There she notices a man in obvious distress. Thanks to her training and quick thinking, she gets Theo Buchanan to the hospital and onto the operating table before his appendix bursts. The still slightly groggy fellow takes one look at his gorgeous doctor and proposes marriage.
Such a spontaneous act is quite out of character for Theo. For the past four years, since his wife died, he has been an out and out workaholic, dedicated to his job as a federal attorney. Indeed, he had been the guest of honor at the dinner because of his success at bring down a crime family. Fully conscious, he finds himself still mightily attracted to the doctor, even after he returns to Boston. So he decides to head back to Louisiana and take her father up on an offer to go fishing.
Unbeknownst to either Michelle or Theo, Michelle is in grave danger from an unknown enemy. When her clinic is trashed, Theo realizes that something is up so he calls in reinforcements. The suspense grows as Theo and his friend Noah try to uncover the mystery before the villains can get Michelle.
Mercy has all the ingredients of an entertaining romantic suspense novel. It has a delightful romance. Michelle is almost too good to be true, but she has an earthy sense of humor and enough interesting quirks to make her fully human. Theo is a man at a
crossroads in his life who has to learn to get beyond his past and decide how he really wants to live. He is an interesting and enjoyable hero.
Mercy has an interesting mystery plot. We know who the villains are and we know what they are after but Garwood succeeds in both sustaining the suspense as the good guys try to work out the puzzle and provide a couple of unexpected twists.
Mercy also has just the right amount of humor to lighten the mood. Garwood excels in creating a cast of secondary characters like Big Daddy Jake and the other denizens of Bowen who are funny but are not made fun of. There were a couple of times when I found myself laughing out loud. Yet the humor in no way detracted from the tension that was building in the story.
I enjoyed Mercy so much that I went out and bought Heartbreaker, Garwood’s first excursion into contemporary romance. I know that some of her fans are not happy that Garwood has moved away from historicals. But this reader, at least, welcomes the switch. I recommend Mercy without reservation.