Crazy Hot

Crazy Love

On the Loose
by Tara Janzen
(Dell, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-9-440-24384-7
Connected to the author’s wonderful “Crazy” series, this book is the story of Steele Street’s ‘new guy’ C. Smith Rydell and socialite Honey York-Lytton. No doubt the author’s fans clamored for Smith and Honey’s story after they nearly stole the book with their steamy subplot in Crazy Sweet. Sadly, the best part of this couple’s story has already been told, and there doesn’t seem to have been enough left to carry a whole book of their own.

On assignment with the DEA in Peru, Smith is shocked to discover that Irena Polchenko, a deadly assassin he once had an affair with, is still alive. For reasons I didn’t find clear, however (this writer usually eschews the more obvious devices, like coincidence), Smith is pulled out of the op and sent to El Salvador to play bodyguard to New York socialite, Honoria York-Lytton.

Honey and Smith had a one-night stand the first time they met in South America, when Honey delivered a suitcase full of money to her sister, a nun helping orphans in a country ravaged by civil unrest and drug wars. But when it was over, Smith put her on a plane back to the States thinking that was the end of it.

This time the official reason for Honey’s trip to South America is a tour of Ecuadorian coffee plantations. In fact, she is being blackmailed by the CIA into delivering a mysterious black briefcase and eight very large, very heavy Louis Vuitton suitcases to Diego Garcia (contents unknown), and returning with a courier’s pouch, a flash drive that went down in an airplane somewhere in Ecuador, and Garcias’s assurance that the coffee plantation of an operator known as Alejandro Campos will not be destroyed the next time Garcias’s rebel group goes on a rampage.

Apparently they’ve exchanged a couple of notes since Honey met Garcia with her sister the sister, and Honey is “the only one he trusts right now.” Since this kind of operation is not usually the territory of Park Avenue cupcakes, she’s going to need someone like Smith to see her through it.

I found the beginning of this book very confusing. Lots of names and a lot of detail about what’s going on should have made me feel well-informed, but I had trouble sorting it all out. This is in direct contrast to the clean, straight-ahead story-telling I’m accustomed to from Ms. Janzen.

And a lot of the sexual tension had disappeared from Smith and Honey’s interaction. They met and struck a shower of sparks off each other in the earlier book. Here it seemed as though there wasn’t a lot for them to do except cover already-trodden ground until it was time for them to get over whatever is keeping them apart.

In addition to the story not being terribly believable (come on – the CIA’s best bet for saving the world is an untrained girl whose main talent seems to be looking chic under all circumstances?) there are too many characters, too many objectives for Honey and Smith, and too much traveling around the countryside with not too much happening. In spite of the fact that Honey has a mere forty-eight hours to get all her jobs done, there was almost no sense of urgency at all.

Detracting from the main event even further, Ms. Janzen is getting into a dangerous pattern with her subplots. Just as Smith and Honey nearly walked away with Crazy Sweet, the most compelling person in this book is a mysterious character named Alejandro Campos, who seems to be extremely adept at playing all sides against each other. It’s fun to be teased with characters who might later have books of their own, but as a reader, what I really want is for the hero and heroine of this book to be front and center.

Don’t get me wrong, Smith and Honey have some great moments, and on her worst day, Tara Janzen can write rings around most other authors of romantic suspense, combining dynamic plotting with sizzling sexual tension. Unfortunately, this book seemed to wander off in the jungles of South America and never find its way back.

-- Judi McKee

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