Friday, January 28, 2011

Cross My Heart by Paris Brandon

TITLE: Cross My Heart
AUTHOR: Paris Brandon
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 25k)
GENRE: Contemporary suspense erotic romance
COST: $4.45

Six months ago, cop Jack Sutton asked Valentine Cross to marry him. She turned him down, and he walked away. Now, the case of a missing woman forces him to seek Val out again, as she is their best chance at finding the safe house the woman is likely at. He just has to hope she doesn’t throw him out when she sees him…

Though there was a lot of potential in this short novella, none of it is actually realized, much to my disappointment. The characters start off perfectly fine. In fact, the prologue where Jack meets Val, a liberal late-night radio talk show host, is crisp and hot. The first chapter then opens two years later, at which time Val and Jack have been broken up for six months. He asked her to marry him, and she flat-out refused. He stormed off, and the two haven’t seen each other since. Jack’s boss has a missing woman case that he’s being told to back off from, but something about it bothers him, and he wants Jack to follow up. Val has a direct line to the biggest safe house for battered women in the city, and Jack’s boss wants him to use his connection to her to find out if the missing woman is there. So Jack goes to see Val, wondering how long it’ll take for her to kick him to the curb this time.

Sounds fine, doesn’t it? And it is, for the most part. I liked the intensity these two displayed, both individually and then initially together. It hinted at some real heat as the story progressed. But Jack never brings up the issue about the missing woman, distracted by the fact that when he arrives, Val has had a break-in. He’s worried for her safety, and that worry somehow results in these two having a temporary truce/getting back together. His anxious feelings for her felt genuine, but honestly, I spent that whole time mistrusting his desire to get back with her. It felt like manipulation to get the information he wanted, rather than genuine need, in spite of his continuous assertions to the contrary. That ended up holding me back for the entire story.

None of it is helped by the fact that shortly into the story, it starts headhopping. Badly. Sometimes paragraph to paragraph. My tolerance for headhopping is low as it is, and this time, I just couldn’t handle it. It’s further hindered by the author’s propensity to tell rather than show, and the explanations that sometimes occur end up being more confusing than if she’d just shown us what happened rather than tell us after the fact. It weakens the suspense angle considerably (not to mention the fact that much of it feels forced and/or convenient). All the good ideas in the world aren’t enough to fix the poor story construction, even when the characters have some serious chemistry. I didn’t believe the resolution of any of the suspense storylines, and ultimately failed to engage with the author’s voice.


4/10 – The headhopping and telling not showing really wore me down


6/10 – I had real issues believing in his reunion when I knew the only reason he’d gone back to her


6/10 – Strong, but too unwilling to bend for me to like very much

Entertainment value

4/10 – While there were some good ideas and lots of potential, it never lived up to any of them.

World building

6/10 – Though there were sporadic bits of painting their world, they never felt cohesive enough to give a good picture



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