She Walks the Line by Roz Denny Fox
The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Harlequin SuperRomance #1254, 2005, Out of print, Available digitally, Book 5 in 6-part continuity series.
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: Chinese heroine and it's a SuperRomance. That was all it took.
The Review: Books like this one always depress me. The sort of book where you can see in between the lines that it could have been a very good story if not for this, that and the other. There are the seeds of a good story here. Truly. Unfortunately it's buried and lost under a mountain of other "stuff" that doesn't work at all.
For one thing, I must have been so excited about a Chinese heroine back in the mid-2000s that I was asleep at the wheel and didn't realize this was part of a 6-author continuity series. Now I've enjoyed some of Harlequin's continuity stories in the past, and they can stand alone. Unfortunately this one does not. The plot never lost me. No, it was the inclusion of a bunch of characters whose sole purpose was to be window-dressing for the "series stuff." These characters are there because the continuity dictates it (the series follows six women who go through the police academy together and are trying to crack the Old Boys Club), but none of them serve any purpose to the story at hand. They're filler. They're taking up space. Get them off the page already.
Anyway, that rant out of the way, the story follows Mei Lu Ling who investigates white collar crime for the Houston PD. Her father is Chinese-American and runs an import business. For a time Mei worked at the family's Hong Kong office before she decided to join the academy, disappointing her father and horrifying her mother (who immigrated from China). Why did Mei chuck family duty behind? What drove her to join the force? I'm not really sure. It's never really addressed here other than she wanted to be her own woman - but why police work and not, say, a chef, librarian, teacher, advertising exec....well you get the idea.
She's paired up with Cullen Archer who is an insurance investigator on the hunt for some stolen Chinese artifacts that are rumored to be in Houston, of all places. And these are serious artifacts - the kind of stuff that belongs in a museum. There are two dead couriers and notes written in Chinese that he needs translated - enter Mei, who has been assigned to work with Cullen.
So this sounds like it could be good right? Chinese heroine straddling old and new worlds, who hungers for her own life, chaffing against her parents' ideals. Then you have the mystery of the missing artifacts while her father works in the import business and she's paired up with Cullen, a white dude, that her parents would most definitely not approve of. So why exactly was this so boring? A slog to get through? The kind of book where I was skimming big ol' chunks.
For one thing, the author spends way too much time on "other stuff" from the continuity - and delaying Cullen and Mei from getting on page together. Then there's the minor detail that Cullen has twins (a boy and a girl) who are visiting him while his party girl ex is off globe-trotting. I read a lot of category - so I'm obviously fine with kids in romances. Really. But these twins were totally pointless. A time suck. Annoying. And they served no great purpose to the story other than to annoy me at great lengths. They're the sort of tots that come barging into Daddy's home office while he's meeting with Mei. You know, those ideal moments when the author should be laying out some actual ground-work to the suspense. When our couple should be spending time together discussing the case. Instead you get the plot moppets barging in, the daughter whining about something or other and the son glowering because there's a vagina in Dad's office.
I never thought I'd say this - but this needed to be a lot shorter. Oh, like say, a Harlequin Intrigue. Strip away the plot moppets, dump the secondary characters that have NOTHING to do with this story, and just get heroine, hero, suspense, on page together. Period.
All this being said, I was willing to concede that a lot of this (OK all of it) is personal preference on my part. A sure sign of a C read for Wendy. Then I got the ending. The big reveal.
The word preposterous comes to mind. Also the phrase "out of left field." I think I might have actually said, "you've got to be kidding me?" out loud. And there definitely was eye-rolling involved. It just flat-out didn't work for me. The irony being that it probably could have worked had the author spent more time developing the suspense (instead of saturating the word count with plot moppets and secondary characters walking through the story). As is however, it was liking blaming the whole thing on Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster. Disappointing to say the least. A Chinese heroine in a category romance deserved better.
Final Grade = D