Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review: When She Wasn't Looking

I've always read a fair amount of category romance, but it wasn't until I started reviewing at 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 DimonWhen 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+


Lori said...

Yes, yes, and yes.

Hilcia said...

I have got to give Dimon another shot! Lori has been recommending her for ages and I have a couple of her books in my TBR too. I like Harlequin Intrigue titles... I've enjoyed the ones I've read, but for some reason I don't read enough of them. I wonder why?

Wendy said...

Lori: I liked The Mystery Men series, but I think this is probably my favorite of Dimon's Intrigues to date. I really, really enjoyed it!

Wendy said...

Hilcia: Two big reasons I find myself enjoying her work is that she writes very "hero-worthy" heroes and her dialogue tends to be very good. I'm still working my way through her Brava backlist, but have read all of her Intrigues to date. This new one? My favorite so far of the categories. Definitely worth a look - says me :) (Well, and Lori says too....)

nath said...

Love the books that make us stay past our bedtime!! :)

Glad you've found a consistent author that works for you, Wendy. I really need to pick up a few of hers.

Holly said...

I struggled SO HARD with the intrigue side of this novel. Being married to a cop makes it really hard to enjoy romantic suspense sometimes. I kept saying "OMG! They wouldn't do that" or "WTF? That's not what cops do". In the end I was so frustrated with that side of it I couldn't enjoy the rest.

Too bad, because I generally love Dimon.

Wendy said...

Nath: Intrigue is a hard line for me to navigate through because you really have to be willing to buy into the short-time-lines on the romance. Sometimes I can and sometimes....I just can't.

Wendy said...

Holly: What I know about that end of the justice system I picked up from Law & Order (Ha!) - so as long as it strikes me as plausible I can roll with it. But I understand, believe me. I DNF'ed a librarian heroine novella a couple months back because the author just got it so.....wrong. I mean, really really wrong.

Hee - you'd love the book I'm reading right now. While I am enjoying it thus far, it strikes me as odd that the hero, who literally gets out of prison in Chapter 1 comes back into a society where parole officers and halfway houses don't exist :) I keep thinking - "but....why hasn't he seen his parole officer yet?"

Holly said...

Yeah, there are somethings I just can't deal with. Just as an example: Any time an officer is in a shooting, he's given a mandatory 3 day vacation. Mandatory. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. If he's the only cop in the entire department, some other agency has to step in and investigate. Period. So right from the beginning I was all 0_0. Poor MM was so tired of hearing me complain and put questions to him.

No parole officers? Really? *headdesk*