After Midnight

Call of Duty

The Captain's Woman

The Colonel's Daughter

The First Mistake

The Harder They Fall

The Horse Soldier

Hot as Ice

The Last Bullet

The Mercenary
& the New Mom

The Officer's Bride

Return to Sender

River Rising

The Tiger's Bride

Undercover Groom

Diamonds Can Be Deadly
by Merline Lovelace
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1411, $4.99, PG-13)ISBN 0-373-27481-5
With surprises popping up every chapter and unexpected leads rerouting the story, Diamonds Can Be Deadly is for readers who prefer their novels more plot than character driven. But don't expect to hold your breath the whole way through - unless it's with frustration. All its clever techno-gadgets, butt-kicking heroines and international networks of operatives, criminals and spies can't pull this novel together. On the contrary, they tear it apart.

The diamond of the title is not a stone. It's the code name for Jordan Colby, a former model who now designs optical wear when she isn't working for a top-secret government agency. Jordan is sent to Hawaii to investigate rumors that a stolen emerald is in the hands of a guru who believes in the healing powers of gems. There, she runs into her former lover, T.J. Scott, a disgraced New York City cop now in charge of the healer's security. She soon learns what we knew all along: there is more to T.J.'s fall from grace. Together Jordan and T.J. recover the emerald and save the world from all kinds of evil.

"There were too many players in the game now," T.J. observes, after realizing he's "losing control" of the operation. The same could be said of the novel itself. Too many characters wander in and out of the story, weakening both the romance and the suspense plots. For one thing, their relevance isn't always clear. Are they setting up a sequel to the story (only to leave us rather unsatisfied at the end of this one)? Are they red herrings (albeit ineffective ones)? Or does the endless parade of Middle Eastern potentates, Columbian drug lords, petty U.S. crooks, and greedy, self-deluding quacks force irrelevant events to take much larger dimensions than originally presumed?

While I would like to be generous and assume the latter, it doesn't help the case. The large cast of characters and the complications they bring do indeed increase the stakes, but because much remains irrelevant at best, unresolved at worst, they also left me disgruntled at the end. Threats are made which suddenly disappear; unseen problems are implied but never materialize; mysteries are pondered only to be investigated off stage. It's hard to tell whether these different directions will be pursued in future installments or whether Lovelace simply overlooked them.

Worse, with so much going on, there isn't enough space for the hero and heroine to grow and for their relationship to develop. Despite hints about the troubled pasts they have overcome, both T.J. and Jordan are the same faintly-drawn silhouettes (pun intended) at the end as they are at the beginning. And while they may have resolved some trust issues from the past, they never really open to each other.

This novel is one of several recent dissatisfying reads in this category. I can't help wonder whether Silhouette Intimate Moments is going through an identity crisis of sorts: it no longer knows where it fits now that Bombshells have exploded on the scene. Unfortunately, we readers are paying the price for the line's much- needed inner quest - and not just literally.

--Mary Benn

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