Monday, April 8, 2019

Review: Seduced by the Badge

Seduced by the Badge marks Deborah Fletcher Mello's debut with the Harlequin Romantic Suspense line and the very first book in her To Serve and Seduce series about a family of Chicago civil servants (OK, so there's a private eye in there - but they're mostly cops, lawyers, council members and such).  I had a few quibbles (hello, this is me) but I ended up really enjoying this one.

Armstrong Black has been assigned a sex trafficking case and when another girl turns up dead, he finds himself getting an out-of-town partner.  Danni Winstead is Atlanta PD and is sent to Chicago when links are discovered with an Atlanta case.  That case?  Danni's sister - who was targeted by these traffickers, but managed to escape.  Danni's a good cop, but a bit of a lone wolf and with a very real score to settle. Will Armstrong's strong personality and her independent attitude spell disaster for their case and their simmering attraction to each other?

I like romantic suspense, but let's be frank - the sub genre has some fairly common pitfalls.  I am, of course, talking about the heroine who runs off half-cocked.  The heroine who doesn't listen to the hero, or disregards what he says, and puts herself in danger at every turn to the point where he has to play white knight and rescue her.  What I loved about this story is that while Danni DOES run off half-cocked, she's competent about it.  She's good at her job.  She can protect herself.  She's got some street smarts.  When things get a bit dicey she can tap-dance her way out of trouble and the author isn't slapping the reader upside the head with Macho Hero Saves The Day clap-trap.

The bulk of the plot revolves around Danni going undercover, making herself appear young, vulnerable and ingratiating herself with the main players that are orbiting the sex trafficking ring.  Danni appears younger, so can pass herself off as a vulnerable runaway.  What I loved about this is that Mello doesn't fetishize Danni's looks.  The hero doesn't "get off" on the fact that Danni looks like a teenager.  Her being able to play younger is seen as an asset for the task at hand and bringing the bad guys to justice.

Like a lot of romantic suspense novels, this one doesn't always pass the smell test.  Danni being loaned from Atlanta to Chicago and then poof! Suddenly she's undercover with nary a whisper of departmental red tape.  I have zero intimate knowledge of how police undercover works, so take this quibble for what's it worth.  I'm just saying that I feel like it's probably more complicated in Real Life.  Depending on reader baggage, this could be fine or it could annoy the stuffing out of you.

But, I'm not reading this story for Real Life.  I'm reading it for the romance and the suspense.  I will say I found the suspense thread more compelling, especially in the second half when Danni's undercover work starts to bear some fruit.  The romance is nice, but not as robust - largely because of plot constraints.  Danni's undercover.  Armstrong is handling stuff behind the scenes.  They don't spend a super ton of time together.  That being said, I will say the progression of their relationship was well thought out.  Mello takes her time getting to the first kiss and we don't get a sex scene until towards the end.  So no annoying "Oh gosh, the bad guys are chasing us - let's stop and have sex now!" moments (I seriously hate those).

I know reading about a Chicago police officer might be a non-starter for some readers right now (thank you recent-ish current events) - but I love the idea of the Black family being notable Chicago citizens, many of them having civil servant-type jobs.  When the siblings get together, that familial relationship plays well on the page.  It's a really attractive set-up for a series, and I'm definitely interested in reading future books.

This wasn't a keeper for me, but it was very good - and I enjoyed the suspense thread.  It does involve sex trafficking, and while mileage will definitely vary on this, I didn't find the descriptions overly graphic.  That said, Danni meets some of the girls and, true to form, some of them are young.  While I do think Danni and Armstrong could have been quicker on the uptake during the climactic finish, I practically inhaled this book the closer I got to the finish line.  The Big Baddies are caught and I'm sucked into wanting more Black family stories. 

Mission accomplished.

Final Grade = B


azteclady said...

You sold me on this one--and you know I'm having issues with cops as protagonists right now--because Black family, prominent citizens, public servants. Yes, please, gimme that now!

Wendy said...

AL: I thought the author set up her series well, and the sibling relationship plays well on the page. I need to get my hands on the second book, which is out now...