I remember when the Kensington Brava line first launched. For those of you who weren't active in the online romance community during this period, the only thing I can compare it to is like someone dropping a bomb in your bedroom. There were vocal factions on both sides of the "issue." There were those readers who thought that Brava was nothing more than porn for woman and an End Of Days sign that meant the eventual death of the genre (sadly, I'm not exaggerating here). Then there were readers like myself who threw their clothes on a bonfire, ran naked into the street and danced a jig. I read a lot of Brava early on, especially when I was still affiliated with TRR, but over the years I sort of drifted away. Other publishers launched more "erotic" lines, I got distracted, and Brava and I grew apart. That is, until I started doing my homework reading for my library's recent literary event. Discovering HelenKay Dimon's books have reminded me that when done right, there is nothing quite like a Brava.
Leave Me Breathless tells the story of Bennett "Ben" Walker, former military man turned Judge, who is not terribly happy with his big brother, Mark, Homeland Security agent. Even though a car bomb destroyed Ben's car, he's not convinced he's in any danger. He thinks the bomb was meant for his colleague, Judge Emma Blanton, who made some inflammatory statements regarding a defendant in her courtroom. Determined to keep his brother safe, Mark hires Callie Robbins, a former FBI agent, who is extremely grateful for the job. That is, until she meets Ben, who just might be the most obstinate, pig-headed, stubborn man she's ever run up against. She's used to being underestimated, but this guy's refusal to acknowledge that his life just might be in danger really grates on her nerves.
What follows in your classic lust-hate relationship. Callie and Ben both rub each other the wrong way, but there's no denying there is a definite, and mutual, sexual attraction. Naturally it doesn't take long for them to succumb, which is probably the main stumbling block. Readers used to getting burned by romantic suspense stories where the cop/FBI/ATF heroine loses her brain the minute she has an orgasm will likely have their doubts. Blessedly, Dimon doesn't go this route. Callie is intelligent, tough, and got a raw deal from the FBI. I like that the author didn't render her stupid just so the hero can swoop in at the end for a Rescue Fantasy Moment. I also liked that Callie called Ben on pretty much all of his bullshit. I liked this girl. Lots.
I often bemoan the fact that publishers and authors are determined to make every book part of a series these days. That nothing can just be a "stand alone" anymore. Which means readers are subjected to a lot of blatant, subtle-as-a-sledgehammer series-baiting. The thing about Dimon's books (that I've noticed anyway) is that as the reader I actually want all of her secondary characters to get their own books. Not sure how she does it. I think it might be the male-bonding thing. Anyway, instead of sequel-baiting brother Mark, he's the secondary romance in this story. I have to admit, that I found myself, at times, more interested in Mark's story than in the Ben and Callie romance - but the author does a good job of drawing both story lines together. I also thought the brother relationship between Ben and Mark was particularly well-done. They both survived a traumatic childhood event that left scars, with each of them channeling that emotional baggage in different ways.
This was a quick, sexy read that I managed to zip right though once I tuned out distractions, planted my butt in a chair, and started reading. It features all those things I've come to enjoy in Dimon's books - snappy dialogue, interesting suspense threads, and yummy heroes. For Leave Me Breathless I can also add the solid heroine to that list. Damn, I feel a glom coming on. The last thing I need right now is a glom....
Grade = B