Monday, February 8, 2010

He's Gotta Be Fresh From The Fight

Since my library's literary event is coming up in (very) early April, I'm past due to get truckin' on my "homework reading." When preparing for the romance fiction panel discussion, it's honestly completely incidental whether or not I "like" a featured author's book(s). It's much more about familiarizing myself with their work, and being able to moderate the discussion while sounding like I know what the heck I'm talking about.

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 fuck-up golden boy) is rotting away in prison for a crime he couldn't possibly have committed. Unfortunately for Deana, the best man for the job is Josh Windsor and their history is a bit....complicated. Not only did Josh once arrest her nephew, he didn't take kindly to her hiring a team of investigators to dig around in his life, trying to find anything to discredit his good name in court. She hardly thinks he should hold that against her though. All she learned was that the guy was so honorable and squeaky clean that even his ex-girlfriends wouldn't talk trash about him. Now to convince him to take the job.

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, 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+


Sarah said...

Wow, excellent review! Dimon is so hit and miss with me I've kind of given up on her but I think I may have a good reason to track this book down.

HelenKay Dimon said...

Thank you so much! I'm speechless and very grateful for the lovely review.

Sayuri said...

Man, you're sending out that pimpilious vibe.

I think I want.

I hate that you can make me spend money so easily. It's ALL you fault, Wendy.

Jill D. said...

Wow, Wendy. I just might have to add this one to the list. I have tried Dimon before, but the heroine got on my nerves a little bit. Although, I did like her writing style. I'll have to give her another go. Thanks for the heads up.

PS. I see you are reading 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover. I'll be curious to hear what you thought of that one...

azteclady said...

Well, damn. Now I have to get this one!

What Sayuri daid: you make me spend money too easily, woman.

RRRJessica said...

I will have that song in my head (with thunderclaps) all day!

Great review. but I am on a self-imposed book buying ban.


Wendy said...

Sarah: This was my first read by her, and I really enjoyed it!

Heeee, Hi HelenKay!

Sayuri: This was the first read in a while that managed to suck me in. I'm not kidding - I really wanted to call in sick to work one day so I could finish reading it.

Jill: Well, I'll be honest - I had issues with this heroine, but was able to get past them because 1) she eventually does come around and 2) the hero is off the charts H-O-T.

Looked up your review on the Wisdom. I'm 90 pages in and so far I'm liking it more than you did - but I'm finding the pacing a little uneven. A more thorough review is in the works after I finish it.

AL: Should be fairly easy to find since it was just released back in October 2009. It is part of a series, but does stand alone well. Says me.

Jessica: I had a hard time coming up with a title for this post - until I remembered good ol' Bonnie Tyler. And yeah, now I'm stuck with an Earworm From Hell.

Jill D. said...

Well, I am glad you are liking it more than I did. After all, you don't want work to actually be work.

Just silly characters in a paranormal annoy me. Which at the time, I didn't realize because I read the book based on Katiebabs review which did mention the slippers. I guess I liked the idea of it more than the exocution.

Victoria Janssen said...

The adversarial thing sounds very promising!

nath said...

It was a good book, but I wasn't wowed as much as you or Rosie. For me, the problem was the relationship between Deana and Josh... too fast. However, I really liked the plot and the twists... for once, the heroine's belief is wrong! yay!

Lusty Reader said...

i second the pimping vibe, im feeling it loud and clear. plus id love to read something set in Hawaii, especially this time of year!