Monday, May 5, 2014

Retro Review: Bad Moon Rising by Katherine Sutcliffe

This review of Bad Moon Rising by Katherine Sutcliffe was first published at The Romance Reader in 2003.  I rated it 4-Hearts (B range) with a MPAA content rating of "R."

“Hope you got your things together
Hope you are quite prepared to die
Looks like we're in for nasty weather
One eye is taken for an eye”
Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival
J.D. Damascus is a fallen golden boy. Once a prominent and feared assistant district attorney for New Orleans, he’s now an ambulance-chasing lawyer with a bleeding ulcer. His clientele are mainly hookers who never pay their legal fees. Why has our man fallen so hard? A serial killer murdered his wife and two young children.

The French Quarter Killer had been targeting prostitutes, but the heat really turns up with the death of the Damascus family. The killer is eventually caught, tried and executed - but J.D. merely thinks the man, while an odious child molester, was a fall guy. He has spent the last several years trying to convince the cops that his family’s murderer is still at large - but no one is listening to him. Then the murders start up again, and the last thing the law wants to admit was that they fried the wrong guy.

Holly Jones is a former prostitute who left behind the seedy streets of New Orleans for Branson, Missouri. She’s trying to put together a real life for herself when she gets a panicked call from a friend who is still working the streets. Melissa is so freaked that Holly decides to pack her meager belongings and go back to New Orleans - even though it means putting her own life in danger.

Holly and J.D. are ultimately thrown together when Holly is arrested, her car and belongings stolen. Not only that, but Melissa is missing - and after her panicked phone call Holly fears the worst. Can Holly and J.D. uncover the truth before the death toll rises any higher?

Let’s get this out of the way right up front - Holly is a former prostitute. Personally, I applaud Sutcliffe for writing a non-traditional heroine into a romantic suspense novel, and kudos to Jove for publishing it! Frankly, if I read about one more na├»ve, too-stupid-to-live virgin I swear I’m going to run head first into a cement wall. With Holly’s moxie and sass, I adored every inch of her.

That said I found Bad Moon Rising to be J.D.’s story. Here is a man who brings new meaning to the term “wounded hero.” He feels guilty over the death of his family, not only because he was away on business at the time, but also because his marriage was on the rocks. He was never really in love with Laura, but did care for her deeply and he was over the moon for the kids. He merely exists, feeding on his need for revenge, when Holly begins to show him just how lonely and miserable he truly is.

Along for the ride are an assortment of secondary characters - other hookers, pimps, drug lords, politicians and J.D.’s extended family. They add their own suspenseful moments to the story and throw in more than a few obstacles for our romantic couple. The romance is secondary, but equally as satisfying. If you are a fan of romances that feature strong redemptive themes, look no further. Who would need more redemption that an ex-hooker and a down-and-out lawyer?

The only thing keeping Sutcliffe’s latest from 5 Heart territory is my own finicky nature. I’m a genre fiction reader who likes everything tied up at the end, and while the climactic finish is satisfying, I found there were one or two loose threads left dangling. That said, with strong characters and a suspense thread that delivers, I know I’ll be pressing this book upon many of my library patrons.
When most romance readers were cutting their teeth on Kathleen Woodiwiss, I was gnawing on Mary Higgins Clark - so it’s not surprising that a good suspense story gets my blood moving. Bad Moon Rising had me excited from page 1 and didn’t let go. I seriously wanted to take a sick day, call in dead, anything to get more reading time in. It’s that strong, that readable and that memorable. Don’t be surprised if you see it on many Best of 2003 lists.

Side note: My R rating reflects the violence in the story more than the sensuality. The majority of the violence is against women, and the killer gets off on torture and fear. Those prone to nightmares should consider themselves warned.


Wendy Looks Back: In hindsight I probably should have rated this 5-Hearts as the book ultimately ended up in my keeper stash.  It's been ages since I read it, but I recall distinctly that, at the time, the online message boards were in a fit of apoplexy over Holly being a former 'ho.  By this point in my romance reading I was so bloody sick of Mary Sue Sunshine that I was ready to have babies with Holly, but to each her own.  I believe this was Sutcliffe's last book and last I heard through the grapevine she was raising horses and enjoying her retirement.


Ana Teixeira said...

I read this one while back and I did enjoy it too. Pity she is not writing anymore!

Rosario said...

I definitely read it too, way back when, but I can't really remember what I thought of it. Might be one to reread!

Wendy said...

Ana & Rosario: I had always assumed I rated this 5-Hearts at TRR and then I reread my review! Who knew I dinged it on the ending?

There is so much I would love to reread, but my TBR Guilt keeps me from it. I really need to do a big TBR weeding project. I just need to find the time.....