The Good, The Bad And The Unread that I made a concerted effort to branch out from just reading my "tried and true" lines. I've been floundering about a bit with Harlequin Intrigue. When they work for me, they're super-quick, action-packed reads. When they don't work? Meh. Lucky for me I've discovered one author who consistently has been delivering for me in Intrigue - and that's HelenKay Dimon. When She Wasn't Looking, a rare unicorn of a stand-alone book, features a nicely involved suspense thread and non-stop action that had me staying up way past my bedtime.
After his career took a nose-dive in Los Angeles, Jonas Porter relocated to Oregon and is working as a deputy sheriff. It's been a long day, and he's tired. He just wants to go home and crawl into bed. However he's got one last stop, a "wellness check" on a woman whose husband has been unable to get a hold of her. However when he arrives at the house? It's not some little old blue-haired grandmother, but a sexy young woman. What the aces is going on here?
Courtney Allen has been in hiding for pretty much her whole adult life. When the cop shows up at her door dropping various names from her past, she knows that it's time to run. However, Jonas just won't seem to take the hint and keeps asking questions she does not want to answer. Worse still, he wants to haul her into his office. And while she's trying to extricate herself from the deputy? Bad Guy #1 shows up, and all bets are off.
What I tend to really like about Dimon's Intrigues is that she works well with what I call The Slow Reveal. She teases readers along, laying out just enough tasty morsels of plot and suspense to keep you flipping pages. It takes a while to learn Courtney's whole back-story, why she is hiding and why she's so cagey with Jonas. Jonas' baggage helps to define him as a cop, but also gives him the tools to be well-prepared for the crap he has to wade through in this story. One innocent wellness check has turned into killers coming to his sleepy Oregon town, with the body count rising, and Courtney somehow being in the eye of the storm.
The suspense here is very good, and quite involved for an Intrigue. The author weaves in a nice amount of twists and turns, and throws in a suitable number of red herrings. Readers meet The Head Bad Guy fairly early on, which makes this story more action-style cat-and-mouse, although Dimon does throw in a wee bit of mystery to spice up the details. She also keeps that action flowing easily from chapter-to-chapter, making this a hard book to put down once you start it. "I'll just read one more chapter," quickly turns into finishing the book, and me staying up too late. I also really appreciated that she avoids the pit-fall of making her characters "super human." In other words? Jonas and Courtney have to make more than one trip to the hospital over the course of the story.
The romance here is pretty much standard Intrigue, which means it's not without some issues. Readers need to be willing to roll with a romance that develops on a very short time-line, against a back-drop of danger and suspense. It's the sort of thing that never strikes me as having much staying power in real life, but you like Dimon's characters so much, and their shared dialogue alone has enough sizzle and spark to convince me of a long-term happy-ever-after.
When She Wasn't Looking is exactly what I want out of my romantic suspense reading. Lots of action, good suspense, and lively chemistry between the romantic couple. And in probably the highest compliment I can give a book? I stayed up late and finished it in one sitting.
::yaaawwwwnnnnn:: (and it was totally worth it)
Final Grade = B+