Tuesday, June 17, 2008

To Die For by Linda Howard *****

Oh. My. God.

OMIGAWD!! My new all-time favorite novel!! Omigawd I LOVED THIS BOOK!! 10 stars out of 5 - Desert Isle Keeper.

This is the first book that I've laughed out loud almost every other page. I had to put the book down several times, and even go back and re-read passages because it is truly hysterical.

To Die For is the story of Blair Mallory, former cheerleader. Told in first person, I found her writing to be sorta like how I think - so I truly Got Her. It's a contemporary suspense romance - AAR reviews call it Suspense Lite. As in - it's suspenseful but funny (ok there's a murder and yeah that's not funny, but still...).

Blair is the owner of Great Bods, a successful gym in a small city in North Carolina. She's been divorced for 5 years, and in that period of time has had only one date that she felt any chemistry with - Wyatt.

She and Wyatt went on 3 dates, 2 years ago - the chemistry was incredibly strong for the first 2 but she didn't let them go all the way because she wasn't yet on birth control pills, and didn't trust condoms. During date #3, Wyatt was cold and ended up just leaving, no goodbye, no explanation, and she never heard from him again. So she's pissed. Royally.

The story starts out with The Murder - Blair closes the gym one night, and goes into the parking lot alone only to witness the murder of one of her clients. Wyatt is now a police lieutenant called in to work on the case. Blair gets one whiff of him, and the chemistry is still there. In Spades. Her hackles immediately go up because she is still pissed. Royally.

Now they are back together by circumstance, and he takes advantage of the situation to Stake His Claim. He has put the past they shared behind him and figures unless she actually says No to him after he's started physically seducing her, anything is fair - and he remembers her Secret Spot. Which he uses to great advantage, over and over. Of course she gives in willingly because there is that major Chemistry Thing - it's always afterward she figures they shouldn't have and insists they won't again.

While the police try to figure out the murderer, it's clear Blair is the only witness, and she tries to hide (by taking her inner beach bunny, Tiffany, on a little vacation). Wyatt didn't rise to his position in the force by not having excellent detective skills - he finds her wherever she is. And he's with her when the possible second attempt on Blair's life is made - assuming the first one was also an attempt on her life, since the first victim looked a lot like Blair.

We spend a lot of time on the 2 aspects of the story: 1, the hunt for the killer, and 2, the rekindling of the relationship between Blair and Wyatt. Early on Wyatt marks his territory: he tells his co-workers, his mother, even Blair's family, that they are engaged, and not as a sham either. Blair fights him tooth and nail - she does want a relationship, but only if there's love, which she figures could not possibly have developed this fast. I started to say she also wants commitment but he has stated his intentions rather specifically - he tells his mother Blair is going to be the mother of her future grandchildren. Sounds an awful lot like "commitment" to me. And she fights him tooth and nail as long as he isn't fondling her Secret Spot - because once he goes there, she's helpless and way more than willing.

Blair's family is great - mom, dad, 2 younger sisters - everything about the family dynamics rings true while being hysterically funny. Blair has had a loving upbringing, complete with good Southern values - and her mom is a terrific role model for a strong, independent businesswoman. There was that incident with Blair's first husband, caught on film kissing the younger sister. The sister was only 17 at the time, so Blair doesn't blame her - at least not completely. Wyatt's family is great too - his mom and his sister. We don't get to know his sister very well, but he doesn't suffer from any of those contrived family issues that keep him from being able to love.

I've liked every Linda Howard book I've read and listened to, and I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to start glomming her backlist. Open Season, which I have abridged on audio, and Mr. Perfect are both wonderful and funny and hot. To Die For is also on the AAR Top 100 list that I'm working my way through. After finishing LaVyrle Spencer's Years earlier today, I was in the mood for something light and funny - and To Die For fit the bill to a T. Truly a stupendous read and majorly deserving of 5 stars or more.

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