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Book CoverLawson’s Review of Hot by Julia Harper
Contemporary romance released by Forever January 1, 2008

Sometimes being in the mood for a light-hearted contemporary romance after several historicals can be a good thing. Hot seemed like it would be a nice story that could entertain between historicals. It is light hearted and wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. We’ve got a bank robbery, a woman on the run, the determined FBI agent out to get her, the villain out to cover his tracks for his crimes and of course, the comic relief.

With all that it’s just kind of a mess. It’s one cliché after another. Turner Hastings is the town librarian in small town Wisconsin, and has lived there all her life. She must be a local because no one questions why a woman would be named Turner. When the bank she works in on Saturdays gets robbed she takes the distraction to steal from the bank president’s safe deposit box. Turner is out for revenge for a years-old crime against her family and Special Agent John MacKinnon has been assigned to the bank robbery and to Turner after she’s seen on security tape.

What follows is a lot of predictable scenes. John is struck from the first by the contradictions he thinks he sees in Turner’s actions, she keeps running because she knows she’s right and is going to prove it, damn it. The majority of the get-to-know-you scenes are done by Turner and John talking on cell phones. She is on the run after all, she can’t turn herself in until she gets the proof she needs. As Turner dodges and runs from one place to another, she gets more and more pathetic. She’s emotionally cut off as well, she doesn’t want to feel things. . .big surprise.

So John and his… uh… not-so-little-John, help release these pent of feelings of Turner’s and open her up to the woman she could be. John is dealing with his own problems with a snotty partner that doesn’t like the way he runs things and a daughter that’s calling across country to find out the real reason while her parents divorced. Throw in the Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumb bank robbers (more like Dipshit 1 and Dipshit 2) and the whole story just reaches for something that’s not there. The humor is forced, the bumblers are annoying and though there are some steamy love scenes, it’s kind of like watching porn (at least for me): it’s there and makes you feel that way due more to involuntary response rather than mutual feelings and desire.

What kept me reading was John, ’cause he’s dealing with a lot and he works it all out rather well. Except for the whole lusting after a criminal thing. The style is well done. Harper has a excellent way with words and though the story left much to be desired, it was well written and easy to read. I suppose the best way to put it is to say it has lots of style, but the substance isn’t up to snuff. Too many clichés and trying to hard to be funny mixed with good writing just can’t make a good book.

lawson-icon.jpgGrade: D+

Backcover copy:

For four years, play-by-the-rules bank teller Turner Hastings has brooded over her uncle’s wrongful imprisonment. But when two bumbling crooks stumble into her branch (barely disguised in Yoda and Sponge Bob masks) and hold up the place, she sees a chance to do something she’s never thought possible: get revenge. She takes advantage of the melee to pull a heist of her own, seizing info from a security box that will exonerate her uncle.Sent to investigate a bank robbery in small town Wisconsin, Special Agent John MacKinnon discovers the robbers were two not-quite-so-bright thugs and one woman. Now, Turner is on the run. With SA MacKinnon on her trail, she’s breaking into the bank president Calvin’s house, kidnapping his Great Dane, and for the first time in her life, setting out to break a few rules. But when Calvin hires a hit-man, MacKinnon will have to decide between his career–and saving Turner.