While I find Lisa Renee Jones’s short stories and novellas sometimes lacking, I gobble up her novels at a rate of knots. So I’m not sure why it took me a while to get to Hot Secrets, but when I did, I happily wallowed.
Her plots are improbable, but she injects just enough reality to make them believable on her own terms, but it’s her characters who hold me. Apart from one plot-driven lapse later in the book, this book is no exception. And she writes heroes to die for. Since she writes romantic suspense, sometimes the heroines come close to doing just that.
In this one the heroine, Lauren, is the daughter of a senator working as a prosecutor in New York. She is a principled woman who doesn’t have many illusions left, exactly the kind of prosecutor needed, but sometimes not the one we get. I don’t know how true it is that hidebound restrictions and lack of budget seriously hampers the working of the system, but Jones makes the point in this book, and certainly I’ve seen it on TV dramas (and we know how realistic they are!) However, it does emphasize that Lauren isn’t in it for the money.
She is working on a particularly sensitive case, a battered woman who killed her husband, but she did so by poisoning him over a period of time, so the defense is finding it hard to work for a crime of passion verdict, and Lauren, intent on seeing justice done, however distasteful, is going for the death penalty. I appreciate the way Jones sidesteps the knotty issue of the death penalty by indicating that the laws of the state Lauren works in demand it for the penalty for the crime she believes the woman is guilty of. However, the crime is very much a plot device. Only one character closely associated with the case ever appears in the book. We never get to meet the woman accused of the crime, or to delve into her motives or her character, so the setting is very much that. The emphasis is elsewhere.
Lauren’s father, who also appears minimally in the book but is referred to frequently, has employed Royce, one of three brothers running a private security agency, to watch over her during the case, since she’s been receiving threatening letters and calls. Enough to shake the usually unflappable Lauren. He meets her at a social affair, all tuxed up, his long hair tied back. He is badass, but he’s caring and he’s the best kind of alpha—the one who wants to use his strength to empower others, in this case, Lauren. Royce is really why I read the book so avidly, and why Jones sold me on a few things that usually annoy me in books.
The main one being the three brothers living and working together in the same building. It irritates me when a group of grown men, be they Black Dagger Brotherhood or these three brothers, choose to live together in the same place where they work. It’s just too convenient and too buddy-buddy. A bit frat house, and something that immature males tend to do more often (plus, in order to take the BDB out, all you need to do is one hit on one building – surely it’s safer not to live there?) When I learned this, I groaned, but by then Royce had me in his spell, as he had Lauren, and I brushed it aside. The other brothers are obvious sequel-bait, plus one other male character, who is a maybe, and frankly, I can’t wait.
All too often, the male alpha character runs rough-shod over the heroine, who turns into a Wimp For You or does something entirely stupid and loses my interest. But not here. Royce has to make decisions in this book, but while he does things that annoy Lauren, he takes her feelings into consideration and takes the risk, in order to save her life or protect her from the Big Bad. That’s why I really appreciate the male point of view in the romances I read. Because without that, Royce might come across as a controlling alpha jerk. As it is, he has to apologize to Lauren a time or two, which is always nice to read. The big man brought willingly low by the female he’s fallen hopelessly in love with.
The plot is probably the weakest part of the book, but it holds together and it kept me reading. That is how it should be, a romance’s emphasis should always be on the characters involved. Asked if I want a great plot with cardboard characters or a not so good plot with engaging, vivid characters, it’s the latter for me, every time. That’s probably why I abandoned British saga-style stories and came to the US for the crack that is the character-led romance. Forget the story, I want characters I can root for and love.
I do have to mention a few formatting problems I had with this story, and a few typos, too, but on the whole, it doesn’t detract from my reading pleasure.
Apart from one plot-led lapse late in the story, where, I guarantee, you will be mentally yelling, “Don’t do it, that’s really stupid” (without spoilers, it involves Lauren doing something Royce has told her specifically not to do), the characters rule here. Lauren is interesting and intelligent enough to hold the reader and Royce is positively gorgeous.
Count me on board for the next one.
The Walker Brothers… Tall, dark, and deadly, these three brothers run Walker security. Each brother is unique in his methods and skills, but all share key similarities. They are passionate about those they love, relentless when fighting for a cause they believe in, and all believe that no case is too hard, no danger too dark. Dedication is what they deliver, results are their reward. Book 1Royce Walker, a former FBI Agent, who’s opened a private security firm with his brothers, has always had the hots for the prim, proper Assistant District Attorney, but considered her hand’s off because of a family connection. However, when danger threatens Lauren, he isn’t willing to stand by and watch her get hurt. Now the passion for survival is only rivaled by the passion burning between them. And that passion, might just be the death of them both.
Read an excerpt.
Other books in this series: