Suspense readers come in two different varieties: 1) Those who cannot tolerate even a whiff of "the love cooties" and 2) Those of us who have been inoculated. Even long before I was a romance reader, I was firmly in Camp #2. Copy That, the latest Harlequin Intrigue by HelenKay Dimon is the sort of book I would have enjoyed reading back in my Pre-Romance Just Give Me Dead Bodies days. Sure there's romance, but it's pretty light given the Intrigue word count, and Dimon keeps the pages flipping with non-stop action.
Jeremy Hill is a Border Patrol agent on some forced R&R thanks to an injury he sustained on his last assignment. He has plans to lay low in Coronado, California, where he has a house with his twin brother, Garrett. However, when he gets there he finds himself rescuing a tenant he didn't know he had, and knocking out a Very Bad Man who was systemically searching the house. Then, because that's not enough, the house blows up.
Meredith Samms is an elementary school teacher still picking up the pieces from a Very Bad Relationship. The apartment she rents from Garrett is the size of a matchbox, but it's the price one pays for living in paradise. Her landlord is nice, and travels a lot - which means normally it's a pretty ideal place to live. That is until she interrupts a burglary in process and meets the twin brother that Garrett never bothered to mention. What exactly does Garrett do for a living that would warrant a hired goon? There's secretive, and then there's just plain spooky. Now she's homeless, scared, apparently in danger - and the only choice she has is running off with Jeremy while he tries to figure out what is going on.
The first half of this book is all about secrets - of which Garrett has many. His job is mysterious, he has a twin brother he never mentioned, and apparently.....a fiancee'. That troubles Meredith not because she was attracted to him, but because, who doesn't mention a fiancee'? She does find herself attracted to Jeremy though, and that spells trouble for her. Meredith doesn't have the best track record with authoritative, secretive men and Jeremy might as well have Alpha Dog tattooed on his forehead. But attracted she is, not that she has a lot of time to dwell on, what with all the bullets flying around.
I tend to not care for twin stories, mostly because they can easily descend into cliches I get annoyed with. Evil Twins, the ol' "Sometimes I'm hot for him and sometimes I'm not - how come?," the ol' Separated At Birth, Raised Separately thing, yada yada yada. Dimon avoids all that. We've simply got brothers, who happen to be twins, who both happen to have secretive law enforcement type jobs. She also avoids that tedious "which brother is which?" when it comes to the women in this story. Meredith knows, from the moment she meets Jeremy, that he may look like Garrett - but he ain't Garrett. Same goes for Garrett's fiancee'.
The action and suspense here is very good, and pretty much fits the Action Movie profile. Lots of bad guys, lots of guns, and the twins trying to figure out who is behind it all. The romance is much thinner. The back cover blurb sells this as a romance between Meredith and Jeremy, but there's also a secondary storyline involving Garrett and his fiancee' - who isn't all that happy with him at the moment. It's the sort of thing that I think suspense-heavy readers will enjoy, because the love cooties aren't blatantly in your face. But if you're primarily a romance reader, and you want just a romance? This one could leave you a little dissatisfied. It's more like an appetizer than say, a main course.
I still enjoyed this story though. Dimon does very well writing action-oriented stories, and I really enjoyed the San Diego/Coronado back-drop. I also liked that she gives us two very different female characters, and twin brothers who, while unique in their own ways, shared some similar traits and played well off each other. I did feel the declarations of love a bit rushed, but the author avoids the sappy epilogue trap and doesn't go anywhere near a marriage proposal (thank you Lord!). A story that won't be for everybody, but might be for you depending on what you're looking for. Personally, I think it would make an ideal addition to any Labor Day weekend beach bag.
Final Grade = B