HelenKay Dimon in 2010, so it seems fitting that the first Bat Cave review of the new year is for her latest Harlequin Intrigue, Guns And The Girl Next Door. Newly minted with a miniseries title (the rather generic "Mystery Men" - c'mon Harlequin you can do better than that!), this is the second book in a series that started with last year's Under The Gun.
Holden Price is former military and was working as an agent for the supah-secret Recovery Project. However, because of events that transpired in Under The Gun, there's been major fallout. The Recovery Project has been shut down and a congressional hearing/investigation is looming. This all translates to Holden being unemployed, sitting on his couch, in his cabin, in the middle of the woods. However his solitude is short-lived when Mia Landers comes crashing through his front door. Literally. She drives her car through his front door!
Mia is completely disoriented, scared, and running on enough adrenline to fuel a grizzly bear. A congressional aide, her boss has driven her out to the middle of nowhere, made wild accusations, and physically threatened her. She manages to escape, only to crash into Holden's house. Nothing is making any sense - and now she has hired goons chasing after her. Her options are limited but one thing she knows for sure? Holden isn't a bad guy to have around. And it turns out they both have a common enemy.
The Intrigue line can be tricky business for authors to pull off, and Dimon has made her stories work by writing them a bit like they were action movies. I'd classify this series (so far) as more thriller-oriented than traditional romantic suspense. You have lots of fighting, lots of gun play, and lots of bad guys chasing after our couple. Even factoring in The Love Cooties, if this story were to be made into a movie, I could so see my Dad (the aficionado of action films) eating this up.
With all this danger and intrigue flying around, the concern on the part of the romance reader is always "what about the romance?" Well, readers who want their romance first and their suspense second are probably not going to be wildly enthralled here. The romance does take a little of a backseat to the Bad Men With Guns chasing after our couple. However, that's as it should be in a story of this ilk. Frankly it would have been wildly unbelievable and improbable to have the Mia and Holden hash out their feelings and engage in heavy petting while dodging bullets and knocking out bad guys. The romantic elements in this story fit, the author includes them in all the right places, and it instills some hope in the happy-ever-after even considering the short time frame.
Now that this has morphed into a mini-series, readers should expect some series baggage. The author does a lovely job of bringing the reader up to speed (I read the first book all the way back in April, so I appreciated this!), but there's no denying this is a series. All the pertinent questions swirling around Mia and Holden are dealt with, but there are some dangling threads left loose presumably for future installments.
I've always considered myself, in my heart, a mystery/suspense girl. I discovered the romance genre later in life, and while I love it with all my heart, sometimes I just want the thrill read. I want villains, hand-to-hand combat, and fast-paced action. This series has been giving me that. They're fun. They're exciting. They're what I consider perfect vacation reads. And oh happy day, the next three installments are all due out in 2011.
Final Grade = B