Linda Howard has often set the standard…and raised the bar, to mix my clichés…for the romantic suspense novel. Specifically, Mr. Perfect and Son of the Morning were bar-raisers, going where romance seldom goes, into women’s friendship circles or grief and street-smart survival.
Even when she wasn’t innovating, in After the Night, All the Queen’s Men and all of her Mackenzie categories, her alpha males raised the temperature so high that I worried about spontaneous combustion reducing a page or three to ashes as I read. However, her some of her recent books – Now You See Her and Dying to Please come to mind – had me questioning my decision to buy Ms. Howard in hard back. Oh, I would have read both books and enjoyed them, but the experience wasn’t worth paying an extra $18 for books I may never reread. I thought seriously before I decided to give Ms. Howard another chance.
I’m glad I did. In Cry No More, Ms. Howard has again pushed the envelope on the romantic suspense novel and given us not one, but two, alpha males, but only one – which one? – is the hero.
Not that Milla Boone is interested in men. Ten years ago, she was the mother of a six-week-old baby, living with her husband in Mexico where David was spending a year as a surgeon in a clinic. Then her baby was stolen as she was shopping in the local farmer’s market, and she almost died of the knife wound she sustained trying to protect him. In an instant, her life changed forever.
The theory was that Justin had been snatched by an illegal adoption ring. If so, the kidnappers would have a motive for keeping him alive, but Milla knew that many of those stolen babies died, hidden in the over-heated trunks of cars or killed in light plane crashes. She had to find out what happened to Justin, so she kept searching for him over the next ten years. Her search cost her her marriage, but it also resulted in Milla’s organizing the Finders Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to searching for missing persons, adults as well as children. Her search changed Milla in other ways; it made her tougher, more concentrated, more street-wise.
Now after ten frustrating years, Milla has gotten another tip: “There is a meeting tonight…. Diaz will be there.” This isn’t the first time Milla has heard about Diaz. Twenty-five months ago, she got a tip that he might be involved in her baby’s kidnapping, but she hadn’t found him despite two years of dogged searching. This tip comes as she is homeward bound after a search that ended with a dead child. She is tired, she is depressed, but she is determined. With another Finder, Brian Cusack, as back-up, she heads for the Mexican village of Guadalupe. Her search for Justin is about to enter a new phase.
Usually this is the point in a review where I would insert a thumbnail sketch of the hero, but not this time. Since Ms. Howard has gone to the trouble of providing us with two possible heroes, both very much in the Howard mold, I’m not going to spoil her ploy for you. She kept me guessing for 75 pages!
Once the hero is clearly identified, I was surprised when Howard undercut the suspense of her narrative by showing us events from many points of view, including those of the villains. With most of the participants’ actions so clearly spelled out – though there was one major twist from Ms. Howard - the suspense lay mostly in Milla’s reactions as the hunt progressed and she found herself in danger. That was enough to keep turning the pages…that and Milla’s hot romance…as I slowly realized that Cry No More wasn’t just about finding Justin. Instead, as I read on, it became clear that the story was about Milla’s emotional reactions to her loss and whether she could complete her mourning for her lost child.
Furthermore, in Cry No More, Ms. Howard has given us a hero who is much more than just an alpha male. In the last 70 pages, after the hunt is complete, Ms. Howard’s hero is as protective of his woman as any Howard hero I can remember, but in ways no other hero of hers has ever undertaken. His actions are truly heroic.
So go ahead, read Cry No More. Read it for the twists and turns of Milla’s quest. Read it for Ms. Howard’s exploration of grief and loss. Read it for the steam coming off the page. Just read it.
--Nancy J Silberstein