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Shadow Woman
by Linda Howard
(Ballantine, $27.00, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0-345506-93-1
****
Depending on one's perspective on romantic suspense as a genre, Linda Howard's 2013 release, Shadow Woman, is either sheer genius or a case of absolute laziness.  As a reader, I've often felt that too many romances with a little action or that happen to have a cop as a character are categorized as romantic suspense; to me, a romantic suspense is about an action-packed plotline with some kind of mystery, a little bit of sex, and a love story thrown in as support. By that definition, Shadow Woman is a nearly-perfect specimen.

Lizette Henry wakes up one morning and, in the middle of her almost rigid get-ready-for-work ritual notices she's wearing a face that isn't her own.  This realization leads to others, with two primary ones: that she knows things that are in no way applicable to the life she's been leading for the past three years and that the two years before that are a total blank.

Nervous and frightened, Lizette begins using some of these survival skills, keeping as low a profile as possible but preparing herself for what could only be a bad situation – why else would she have had reconstructive surgery and complete memory loss?  But when the elusive "they" try to take Lizette during lunch one day, she bolts, knowing full well that she entirely unequipped for life on the run.

Enter the elusive Xavier.  Once, he had been Lizette's team member and lover; for the last three years he had monitored her every move in the hopes of keeping her safe: Lizzy isn't wrong, "they" really are after her, especially now that her awareness seems to be emerging.

Now, here is the beauty (or the cop-out, depending on your position) of this somewhat ill-fated romance: Lizzy has her erotic dreams and Xavier has his memories, but aside from one minor run-in, the hero and heroine of Shadow Woman don't come in contact with one another until the end of the book.  It is a scene that will either make your eyes roll or bring tears to them.

Shadow Woman is probably the best novel Howard has put out since Kiss Me While I Sleep.  Though I've never not picked up one of her titles, I've been frequently disappointed for the past decade, and Shadow Woman has restored my faith.

--Sarrah Knight


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