Not Without You

Someday Soon

Summer Love

 
In Too Deep by Janelle Taylor
(Zebra, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-6933-2
***
Easy to read but utterly predictable, the only unexpected thing about In Too Deep is how entertaining it is.

Hunter Calgary has decided he can no longer be a cop. Kicked off the L.A. police force for harassing Troy Reynolds, the man he believes is responsible for his sister Michelleís death, he has been working in Santa Fe, trying to recover his commitment to law enforcement.

Just when he gives it up as a lost cause, he is approached with a job offer by millionaire restaurateur Allen Holloway. Holloway wants Hunter to protect his daughter from her vicious ex-husband - Troy Reynolds. Itís got to be their secret, though; Holloway is estranged from his daughter and sheíd blow a gasket if she found out heíd hired a bodyguard without consulting her.

Since he could never prove Reynolds killed his sister, the temptation to get close to the creep and take him down for something is more than Hunter can resist and he takes the job.

His first assignment is to follow Jenny Holloway to Puerto Vallarta, where sheís taking a holiday. Jenny, who has just received a large inheritance from her mother, is going to use the bequest to open her own restaurant in Sante Fe. She and her fifteen-year-old son Rawley will move there right after she gets back from Mexico.

Married at twenty, Jenny ran away from her abusive husband after six months, letting her father buy the guy off and arrange a quickie divorce. She never told Reynolds she was pregnant, and the deal was that he would never darken their door again. Reynolds has gone through the money and is back for a bigger piece of the pie.

And you know the rest.

Thereís a predictable cast of characters. The burnt-out ex-cop tormented by a past failure. The spunky heroine, determined to make it on her own and whose career has replaced a relationship. An overbearing father. A rebellious teenager. A demented, evil ex-husband who will stop at nothing to get Jenny - and her money - back under his control.

Thereís a predictable story with predictable problems. Hunterís attracted to Jenny but emotional involvement will impair his ability to protect her, and his shallow ex-wife was rich so emotional involvement with another heiress is unthinkable. Jennyís attracted to Hunter but she was also attracted to Troy in the beginning so her judgement canít be trusted, and she keeps finding out that heís keeping things from her so Hunter canít be trusted. The father wants to control everything. The kid is taken in by his father. Trouble ensues.

Having said all that, In Too Deep is still quite readable. I liked all the characters I was supposed to like and disliked the ones I was supposed to dislike. The writing flows in an easy and inviting style that kept my interest although it never fully engaged it, and the final chapters kicked up the tension to a level that was more surprising than the actual resolution.

I should also mention the sensuality rating. The hero and heroine get a PG, but the book overall is a PG-13 because of the unpleasant villain sex. Iím not sure it needs an ďRĒ because itís not terribly explicit, but it is nasty and abusive. Less forgivable, it never added any new information to the story or told me anything I didnít already know about the loathsome villain; it felt more like something on the authorís checklist of elements to include in a romantic suspense novel.

Creating suspense in a story where your audience knows from the get-go that thereís going to be a happy ending has got to be a major challenge and Iím in sympathy. The opportunity to surprise your audience exists only along the path to the foregone conclusion and, unfortunately, I kept feeling like Iíd walked down this path before.

--Judi McKee


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