Her Private Bodyguard by Gayle Wilson
(Harl. Int. #561, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-22561-X
Gayle Wilson is an auto-buy for me, whether she is writing her excellent historical romances or her fine short romantic suspense books for Harlequin. I have read all of her “Men of Mystery” series and enjoyed them very much. But to tell you the truth, I think Her Private Bodyguard is my favorite. It has just the right balance between romance and suspense.

Valerie Beaufort is burying her father. His death has left her with an unwanted burden. She has inherited his majority shares in the defense firm he and four friends began over forty years ago. She has suddenly become a very, very rich woman. Valerie does not want her father’s wealth. Ten years earlier, when she discovered that her fiancé was marrying her for her money, she retreated to the family ranch where she raises horses. She wants neither the responsibility nor the trappings that money brings.

One of those trappings arrives at her ranch shortly after her father’s funeral. Grey Sellers has been hired by the insurance firm that has a policy on the life and safety of the CEO of Av-Tech as Valerie’s bodyguard until a security system can be installed at the ranch. Valerie wants to drive Grey off the place, but realizes this will be futile; the company will just send someone else.

Grey, like all the heroes of this series, was a member of the CIA’s top secret External Security team. He had quit the team two years earlier because he blamed himself for the death of one of the team members. He returned to his home state of Colorado and now runs a struggling detective agency. He doesn’t particularly want the assignment, but he needs the money. His employer tells him it will be a piece of cake. This turns out to be a bad prediction.

The first thing that happens is that Valerie’s stallion goes loco and Grey ends up rescuing her from real danger. This “accident” reinjures Valerie’s crippled knee and suddenly, she’s dependent on Grey. Valerie doesn’t like to be dependent. She also doesn’t like the feelings Grey creates in her. And she doesn’t trust him, especially when she discovers he is a man without a past.

Valerie’s life has been shaped by her fiancé’s betrayal. She can't imagine how a handsome man like Grey can be attracted to a partly crippled, rather ordinary woman. He must be after her money. She doesn’t understand that her grit and her courage are themselves appealing. Grey has his own scars, although these are psychological rather than physical. But getting to know, caring for, and protecting Valerie starts him on the path to healing.

As is always the case in a Wilson Harlequin Intrigue, there is lots of danger and intrigue. Grey has to find out who is threatening Valerie, who seems to want her dead. There are enough suspects; all of her father’s partners stand to benefit from her death. I must admit that I was just a bit surprised by the identity of the villain, but it did all make sense.

So I heartily recommend Her Private Bodyguard. It has a fine romance, luscious love scenes, lots of action and a well crafted mystery. It certainly kept me turning the pages.

--Jean Mason

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