Friday, February 27, 2009

Mexican Heat by Laura Baumbach & Josh Lanyon

TITLE: Mexican Heat
AUTHOR: Laura Baumbach & Josh Lanyon
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 78k)
GENRE: Gay erotic romantic suspense
COST: $5.50

Detective Gabriel Sandalini has been deep undercover in the Botelli crime family for eighteen months, all in hopes of orchestrating the biggest drug bust in history when the Botelli family joins with the Sanchez family. When he discovers an amazing one-night stand is actually Miguel Ortega, the Sanchez’s second-in-command, he starts panicking about blowing it. The merging of the families starts to twist in directions he didn’t expect, and Ortega turns out to be the one person he can rely on…

NOTE: This is a review originally written for Uniquely Pleasurable.

If there is one thing Mexican Heat has, it’s atmosphere. Rich, warm details spring forth from the very first paragraph, with no sense left untouched. The authors immerse the reader in the seedy underbelly of Italian and Mexican drug lords, refusing even a gasp for breath until that’s all the reader knows. The same extends to the colorful cast of personalities. While many of the secondary characters seem straight out of a multiple other mobster stories, they do so with style and brilliance. They might be familiar archetypes, but that makes them no less entertaining.

Just as entertaining are the two leads. Gabriel Sandalini is a self-confessed adrenaline junkie, with a mile-wide independent streak and drive to match. In many ways, Miguel Ortega is the antithesis – urbane, patient, with a silver tongue and experience to curb his more spontaneous impulses. There’s a spark whenever these two get into a room together. Even though it takes a while for anything physical to happen between them once they discover who the other is, the actual culmination is secondary to the tension brewed in the interim. Put them together, and the scene seethes. Their chemistry is as passionate as either culture could ever hope to be, and it’s this red-hot fire that carries the bulk of the book.

I had a little bit of difficulty getting into the story, though. The book is divided into two parts, and the first seems far more overwritten than the latter. Lines like, They were playing his song all right, and the name of that tune was danger., seem heavyhanded and a tad cheesy. There’s a lot of that in the beginning, and it made for some bumpy reading until it smoothed out. It’s not helped that editorially, the first half isn’t nearly as clean as the latter (there’s an instance where Gabriel gets called by his real name by the mobster daughter instead of by the name she knows him as [Giovanni], for example). I did find it curious that the lavish prose of the first half comes in Gabriel’s perspective, while the cleaner, smoother prose of the second comes in Ortega’s. It felt like an odd choice, and I’m not sure if the inversion was deliberate or not. It might be meant to mirror Gabriel’s more dynamic approach to life and Ortega’s control, but again, I’m not convinced. It was stark enough for me to notice, though.

What sucks a reader in, then, is the heat between the two leads and the non-stop, unrelenting action that keeps the story barreling forward. I have to admit the suspense didn’t work for me as well; I saw one of the biggest plot twists coming from as early as the second chapter. But reading it as action-oriented hot romance? Oh yeah. Delivers in spades. Even when it switches gears in the second half of the book, its breakneck pace keeps the heroes’ relationship devastatingly intoxicating. That’s the true appeal of the book for me.


8/10 – The second part is much easier to read, and cleaner, than the first part; sometimes, the overwriting of the first bogged me down

Hero #1

7/10 – Likeable and realistic, but I wondered more than once just how bright he really was, and if that made it viable for him to be doing this kind of work

Hero #2

7/10 – Appropriately enigmatic, but sometimes his over-the-top dialogue – while in character – felt too much Spanish lothario

Entertainment value

8/10 – Though the suspense wasn’t as effective since I saw quite a bit coming from the beginning, the action and constant forward motion of the story, as well as the hot chemistry between the two, more than compensated.

World building

9/10 – Vivid and rich with detail



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