Meg Connelly just wants to get through her complicated life as a grad student, student advisor, and waitress. She has a hard enough time with the rich, spoiled kids in the sorority she oversees, she doesn’t need hot SLED Agent Mick O’Shaughnessy upsetting her life. But Mick’s investigating a serial murderer and Meg’s right at the center of the investigation. And even if she weren’t, he’s not so sure he could leave her alone.
I began this book with great expectations. Despite their pervasiveness, I still enjoy serial killer stories. And the descriptive passage that begins this book, with the police at the scene of a body’s discovery, is nicely narrated:
The body lay in dappled shade. Patches of light caught pale flesh—an ankle here, a hip there. Resurrection ferns spread lacy fronds, partially concealing the limbs. Mick wondered if the irony was deliberate.
This deep into the woods, the trees blocked the breeze and the humidity increased as the air sucked moisture from the thick mulch spread across the forest floor. The noxious mixture of smells pressed against him in a cloying layer that was nearly visible amid the shifting patterns cast by the overhead branches. Pausing at the edge of the clearing, he batted at the flies circling his head. He hated flies. He associated them so strongly with death that a fly in his condo drove him crazy.
Two local detectives looked up, acknowledging Mick’s presence. His short hair marked him as a cop as much as the holstered pistol and gold badge clipped to his belt. The locals would already know who he was. He hadn’t been able to escape the publicity surrounding the murders—the Captain kept putting him in front of television cameras.
Unfortunately, the procedural stuff is really the only aspect of the book that is strong, and it’s not strong enough to support the rest of the story. The characters are cardboard. There’s no real intimacy between the hero and heroine. She spends her time running away from him and he spends his time alternately chasing after her and telling himself he shouldn’t pay her attention since he knows nothing about her.
And then there’s the sex. I don’t mind whether my romances do or don’t have sex, so that’s not a problem, but this book has the worst of both worlds—plenty of perverted villain sex, but no lovemaking, no happy sex to offset the ugly sex. To me, that’s a problem, particularly in a book that calls itself a romance. I had no sense that these two characters could make it as a couple.
I also had issues with the villain. “The Professor” is such a cartoon that I had to stop reading his sections entirely in order to finish the book. Here’s a sample of the interminable scenes with the villain:
He returned to his den, intending to work, but found himself contemplating his current situation instead. All too soon, the coverage of Emily’s death would degenerate into a repetition of the same limited facts, followed by more inane commentary from a consulting psychologist. The Professor wasn’t sure if he found them an irritation or pompous frauds. Their sloppy research and analysis would never be tolerated in his field. Settling more comfortably in his desk chair, he reviewed their arguments.
They thought he was “afraid” of women; that he had “issues”—who came up with that term anyway? Whatever happened to plain-old problems?—with a domineering mother. After Ashley, they’d debated whether he was using a condom or “failing to maintain an erection.” Whether he was a homosexual. Whether he could have normal sexual relations.
He’d laughed over that. How much more normal could you get than using a woman for her sole purpose in life—sex? He didn’t use a condom to protect himself from the women or disease. Semen was evidence, so he eliminated it.
None of them—the police, the shrinks, the reporters—understood. The pleasure, the euphoria transcended mere sex. He closed his eyes, sinking into the vivid memory: He presses his palm against her flank, feeling the liquid warmth of her blood, hotter than her skin. Hot, like the passion that burns inside the human beast. Hot, like the life force that he has claimed.
He lifts his hand to his nose. The scent is distinctive and metallic. Opening his mouth, he licks the wet slickness. Even the taste is metallic. The ancients ate the flesh of their vanquished. Cut out the heart and consumed the soul, taking their enemy’s strength for their own.
Pressing his tongue to his palm, he savors the woman’s blood and feels her mystery enter him. It runs through him, triumphantly adding to his mastery. His penis stirs in response. Earlier, he’d climaxed explosively while his hands tightened around her neck. Her fear fed his appetite. Stripped of the veneer of respectability, she’d shown her true nature—a groveling whore. Pleading, desperately begging, offering her body in a pathetic bargain, as women have bargained throughout history.
Finally, I had problems with the setup. The hoary old saying “write what you know” comes to mind. Take it from a career academic with degrees from schools big and small, private and public, the atmosphere and relationships within the college are all wrong. Meg refers to one of her professors, a man she both TAs for and writes papers for, as “Mr.” Um, no. If he’s teaching grad students, he’s a “Dr.” And Meg never goes to class. We never really see her studying. Grad students are consumed with academics. Yeah, they have jobs, frequently more than one, but nothing is more important than their classes while they’re in that phase of their education or their dissertations when they get to that phase.
Someone is murdering women on South Carolina’s college campuses: three women, three different schools. The Governor’s order to State Law Enforcement Agent Mick O’Shaughnessy is simple: make it stop. More political maneuvering diverts Mick to nearby Douglass College. There, instead of another dead body, he finds Meg Connelly, grad student and faculty advisor for the latest victim.
Determined to finish her master’s degree, Meg doesn’t need anybody’s help – including her estranged family – to succeed. There’s something irresistible about Mick, but the last time she let someone get close to her, she lost everything except her self-respect.
As the investigation heats up, so does their relationship. But Mick’s interest in Meg doesn’t just endanger her heart–it puts her in the sights of the killer.
No excerpt available.