Just Married...Again

A New Attitude

The Last Southern Belle

Night Kills

Valley of the Shadow

Hot Shot by Charlotte Hughes
(Mira, $6.50, R) ISBN 1-55166-941-2
Hot Shot is often funny, generally entertaining, and has a wonderful hero - laid back with a touch of smart-ass in him. The heroine, however, is so abrasive that their romance falls flat, at least for the first half of the book..

Detective Francis “Frankie” Daniels has run afoul of the Atlanta Police Department by sleeping with the commissioner’s married son-in-law, though she believed him to be getting a divorce. Stripped of her badge, she’s being shipped off to Purdyville, North Carolina, where a friend of a friend is the police chief. Frankie arrives in Purdyville to find her rental home in ashes. She throws a temper tantrum and snarls at the two men standing by, unaware that she’s just insulted the fire marshal and her new boss, Sheriff Matt Webber. When Frankie completes this unlikely scenario by falling flat on her butt in the mud, I wanted to stand up and cheer.

Even more so when the hunky sheriff leaves her there to marinate in the muck for a few minutes while she cools off. Frankie is all attitude, with a chip on her shoulder the size of the city she’s left behind. Stuck in Hicksville? No way. She’ll be outta there as soon as she can get her resignation letter typed.

Franke caps off her first day by beating up the town lowlife when he tries to hit on her in a restaurant. Revenge is in the air. Crime isn’t far behind, as new cases start cropping up, surprising Frankie into using some of her much-vaunted detective skills. Maybe there’s more to life in Purdyville than she first thought. Certainly the sheriff looks interesting, but Frankie intends to keep her hands off.

Matt is instantly attracted to Frankie, god knows why, and he quickly decides he has to have her. Somehow he must convince her to stay and make a life with him. Since Frankie is pushy, foul-mouthed, and smokes like a chimney, the only plausible reason Matt gives is that she has a great butt, and it’s not enough to convince readers that this is a match made in heaven.

Then Frankie moves in with Matt’s cousin, Sissy, who runs her own phone-sex business and is just the person to knock Frankie off her high horse. Things started looking up in the second half of the book. Frankie mellows out, Matt continues to pursue her (and now it seemed a bit more likely) and in the end, there’s a nice little romance between these two.

I could accept tough-talking Frankie who’s seen too much and can’t forget it. I could even accept that Matt might find her interesting. What was difficult, and I know I’ll tick some readers off here, was her chain-smoking habit. When a woman sits in a small motel room and smokes seven or eight cigarettes in half an hour, she’s going to reek. I kept imagining Frankie with foul breath, yellow teeth, and the stink of stale smoke in her clothes and hair. At one point Matt says “you smell like a burning barn”. Nope, not even that good. And he’s supposed to be attracted to her because she’s such a hot babe? Later in the book there’s a vague reference to “I’ve really cut down a lot” but it’s never a deliberate action.

As for the secondary characters, they run the gamut from Mayberry stereotype (characters are named “Cooter” and “Jeeter” and “Willie-Jack”) to more genuine, like Sissy the big-hearted roommate, who’d like to be a model but knows, deep down, that her days are past. Matt has his own past pain to deal with, and it’s poignant to watch Frankie try to boost him up when he really needs it. Nice role-reversal there.

Hot Shot definitely has its moments, and if abrasive heroines don’t bother you too much, you may find Frankie Daniels just your cup of tea. I’ll try another Charlotte Hughes book, that’s a certainty.

--Cathy Sova

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