Just One Look by Mary McBride
(Silh. Int. Mom. #966, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07966-4
****
Sara Campbell wants nothing more than to get home. She is agoraphobic (fear of open spaces) and has just left her shrink’s office for the last time, vowing never to leave her house again. But her day goes from bad to worse, when she (literally) runs into the South Side Ripper, a serial killer that targets women.

Detective Joe Decker was in hot pursuit of the Ripper when Sara got involved. Sara manages to rip off the killer’s ski mask before she is knocked unconscious. That makes Sara the only person to have seen the Ripper and lived to tell about it. Joe finally has an eyewitness and he vows to protect her at all costs.

Things don’t run smoothly, since Sara can’t seem to remember what the Ripper looks like. On top of that, she refuses to leave her rambling mansion that is seriously lacking in the security department. So Joe decides to become Sara’s bodyguard, hoping that she’ll remember before the Ripper comes after her.

Joe Decker is a wonderful romantic hero. The kind of guy that gets the job done, faces challenges head on, but has a tragic past. Cliché, yes; Boring, hardly. Joe is still reeling from his wife’s death three years earlier. He tried filling the void with work, but he’s still devastated. I’m a sucker for a “tragic” hero and Joe brought my blood to a boil.

On the other hand, it took me considerably longer to warm up to Sara. I’m sure that agoraphobia is a very crippling illness, and I did my very best to be sympathetic to Sara’s plight, but it wasn’t always easy. Since she refuses to leave the house, her cooperation in the investigation is almost non-existent. Sara also decides to stop seeing her shrink and is pursuing no treatment for her illness. She is unwilling to help herself, instead embracing a life that will close her off from the outside world. In the beginning, I was more than a little fed up, but I did like her once I “got to know her.”

When it comes to sexual tension, Joe and Sara are on fire. Sara may not want to leave home, but she’s not dead, and she knows an attractive man when she sees one. Joe has had no desire to date since his wife’s death, but being around Sara day and night puts “peculiar” notions about dating, kissing and sex into his head. Adding to the tension is Joe’s vow to protect Sara until the Ripper can be caught, which means he can’t let his judgment become clouded.

Just One Look is an appealing category romance. For readers who like some light suspense mixed in with some great romantic chemistry, McBride’s latest is definitely worth a look.

--Wendy Crutcher


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