We need to talk about Karen Rose. Like, how is this woman not getting published in hard cover yet? Mark my words, it hasn't happened yet but it's only a matter of time. And if it isn't a matter of time, she needs to fire her agent.
Anyway, I wrapped up Count To Ten yesterday and once I sat my butt down and started reading I could not stop. Seriously.
I like my romantic suspense novels to be suspenseful first, romances second. This is naturally a holdover from the fact that I started life out as a mystery junkie. Sure the lovey-dovey stuff is nice, but if I don't find the suspense credible the book as a whole tends to fail for me. This is not Rose's problem, since she obviously believes in high body counts. In the two books I've read by her so far (Nothing To Fear and Count To Ten), she's killed off nearly a dozen characters in both. No joke. I've pretty much learned that outside of the hero and heroine, anyone is fair game in her novels. Don't get too attached to the grocery store owner, babysitter or fireman because they all could end up dead. Anyway, on with the plot.
Detective Mia Mitchell has appeared in other books, but what I love here is that Rose keeps her series very loose. I'm not hammered over the head with series-itis. We get returning characters but they don't stand around doing nothing. Anyway, Mia has just come back from disability. Her and her partner were shot, and she feels responsible. So responsible that she's been wallowing in guilt and sulking about. This didn't bode well for me, but luckily Mia snaps out of it once she has a job to do.
That job involves her new partner, fire marshal Reed Solliday. Reed has a homicide on his hands, which means kicking the case to the cops. He gets called to the scene when a house literally explodes, only to find out that the owners were on vacation. Good for them, bad for their pretty college girl cat-sitter who was there studying for her statistics exam. Not a way I would want to go - studying statistics. Anyway, she didn't die from the fire. She died from the gunshot wound in her head. But his arsonist isn't done yet. He has more houses to burn. More people to kill. And more women to rape. Busy boy our villain.
While a lot of the violence takes place off stage - there are enough details to make is suitably creepy. Frankly if you don't like violence, you shouldn't even be looking at romantic-suspense, but who am I to judge? Just consider that your warning. We have a lot of dead bodies and a really bad, bad guy. It's great, great stuff and the mystery reader in me was practically drooling.
The romance is also very well done. Reed is a single father to an increasingly difficult 14-year-old daughter. He lost his wife several years ago in a car accident, and has relied on "no strings attached" affairs since. Of course our boy is a bit of an idiot. He wants the relationship, he just doesn't want any messy emotional entanglements. So love is out, one night stands are out - so that leaves a very long dry spell.
Mia is married to her job. Engaged once, it didn't work out because 1) she didn't love him and 2) he wanted her to change. She's attracted to Reed, but is wary of getting involved because she knows how hard being a cop is on marriages and relationships. She's also got a lot of baggage involving her dead, asshole father, a sister who is in prison and a mother who has all the emotional warmth of Joan Crawford.
What I love about this romance is that neither one of them wants it, but it happens. They fight the attraction long enough, the tension builds, and when they finally get naked - whoa doggie! It's enough to peel wallpaper.
So we have a creepy villain, lots of dead bodies, and a good romance. I also love Rose's writing style which is very reminiscent of Mary Higgins Clark. Chapter breaks, alternating points of view, and plenty of opportunity to get inside the mind of a killer. A great suspenseful read. I need to go on a Karen Rose reading bender very soon. Final Grade = B+