3, 2, 1...Married

Butterfly

Chance McCall

Deep in the Heart

Familiar Stranger

Finders Keepers

Mission Irresistible

Remember Me

Reunion

Roman's Heart

Royal's Child

Ryder's Wife

Second Chances

Sweet Baby

TallChief

As Dinah McCall:

Chase the Moon

Dreamcatcher

Jackson Rule

Legend

The Return

Storm Warning

Tallchief

Touchstone

 
Snowfall by Sharon Sala
(Mira, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN 1-55166-844-0
***
There is much to like in Sharon Sala’s new romantic suspense novel: an interesting heroine, an intriguing hero, an admirable secondary gay character, a well-developed romance, a realistic and compelling description of the impact of escalating threats. I have a feeling that my reason for not recommending Snowfall but rather concluding that it is simply acceptable is the result of my having read too many similar books. You see, I figured out pretty quickly who the villain was and this, I fear, detracted from my enjoyment of the book.

Caitlin Bennett is a successful mystery writer; she is also a very rich young woman who inherited a media empire from her father. For months, she has been receiving threatening letters which have become ever more explicit. She has approached the police, but was not taken seriously. When her editor, Aaron Workman, receives a similar letter and discovers that Caitlin has likewise been getting these missives, he immediately calls his step-brother to come to New York to act as her bodyguard.

Connor “Mac” McKee had been a cop in Atlanta. He had burned out several years earlier and had started a now successful security firm. He is enjoying his first real vacation in years when Aaron calls, but he doesn’t hesitate a moment to come to Caitlin’s aid. The two are not strangers; Aaron had introduced them previously, clearly hoping that the two people he loves most in the world might click. They hadn’t.

Caitie reluctantly accepts Mac’s round the clock protection. Mac is not a hot dogger; he knows he needs help and he immediately brings the police into the case. But there are not many clues to suggest who is threatening Caitie and they have a lot on their hands; there is a serial killer on the loose.

The reader, however, knows more about the villain because Sala takes us into his mind. We know he calls himself “Buddy,” the name his now deceased mother used. We know he is absolutely obsessed with Caitlin, that his is rabidly jealous of her fame and fortune. And we know that the murdered women met their fate because they looked like Caitlin Bennett.

There is much to like about Snowbound. That Caitlin is a writer - albeit of mysteries rather than romances - allows the author to provide some fun insights into the somewhat idiosyncratic habits of authors when they are in the middle of writing a book. Moreover, Caitlin is a very real character. Her growing panic as she realizes that she is the target of a man who has already killed three women is very well drawn, as is her desire to try to regain control over her life.

The romance is enjoyable. Sala avoids the problem of “instant attraction” that characterizes so many “bodyguard” romances by giving Caitie and Mac a history. Their previous conflict is shown to have been based on a latent attraction that neither was willing to acknowledge, each for their own personal reasons. Thus, when danger and propinquity leads to romance, the stage has been nicely set.

In retrospect, one can see certain problems with the plot. For example, it seems highly unlikely that the police would have so cavalierly dismissed Caitlin’s previous pleas for assistance, given her celebrity and wealth. But that this and a few other niggling problems did not jump out during the reading suggests that Sala knows how to sustain the tension in her story.

Would I have rated Snowfall more highly had I not identified the villain so early on? I can’t say for sure. I know that, despite this flaw, the story and the characters engaged my interest. I think that one of the greatest challenges that any author of romantic suspense faces is to succeed in surprising the author with the denouement. Sala didn’t quite pull this off in my case.

--Jean Mason


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