But I ain't lyin' - this job is a lot easier when I "like" the book(s).
Holding Out For A Hero by HelenKay Dimon is the most recent in her Hawaii Heroes and stands alone very well. I think it's a good "test" for an author when they can make series stories stand alone (this is one of my personal reading quirks) and I'll be honest - the plot sounded delicious.
Deana Armstrong needs a private investigator. Her nephew (the family
Josh has just left the DEA thanks to his boss trying to pass the buck of a botched investigation on to him. The whole incident has not only confirmed that his boss is a prick, but that he's damn tired of rescuing people. He's done. He's out. Then Deana approaches him with her job offer, and he somehow keeps it together long enough to not laugh in her face. This woman, and her family, have repeatedly shown that they are more than willing to throw their money around to try to weasel out of trouble, and now she wants his help?! He should be telling her to go to Hell, but damn, he finds himself saying yes.
What we have here is your classic adversarial romantic relationship. Countless authors have tread this ground before and many, many of them have failed (sorry, you have) because they forget a key ingredient in the mix. The adversarial "stuff" has to be believable. It can't be trumped up and stupid. Josh has a very credible reason for disliking Deana and her family. Not only did her mother try to blackmail him once - but Deana herself once hired a team of investigators to dig through his life, looking for evidence to discredit his good name.
The author takes a very big risk in this story in the form of Deana. I'll be blunt - the girl just doesn't "get" it for a good chunk of this story. It's easy for her to accuse Josh of hating money, as opposed to admitting that what he really hates is her family trying to buy their way out of trouble. She's also still lugging around guilt for a past event that I suspect many readers will balk at. Romance readers love wounded characters when they're "wrongly" wounded. It's a lot trickier when said wounded character makes the choice that ultimately leads to their downfall. Deana is risky enough that, I'll admit it, during my reading, it wasn't all sunshine and roses. But ultimately, that is what makes this story so interesting. That the heroine doesn't fit into a safe mold where you always "like" her. Plus, it helps that she eventually does "get" it.
It's been a while since I've read a book where I literally wanted to drop everything (oh, like my entire life!) to keep reading. The dialogue is fantastic, the story is solid, and the final chapters are just....wow, amazing! If I had been on the ball at all, this easily would have made my Best Of 2009 list. As it stands right now, don't be surprised if Holding Out For A Hero makes my Best Of 2010 list.
Final Grade = B+