Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Heartbreaker by Julie Garwood ***

This might be the first non-historical Garwood wrote - it's definitely the first I've read of hers, and I liked it ok, so it got 3 stars from me. The style was vastly different from her historicals, and it really was more a murder mystery/suspense than a romance.

Father Tom hears a confession that chills him in spite of the oppressive summer heat: a parishioner that he doesn't recognize confesses that he's planning to kill Tom's sister Laurant, the way he killed another woman, slowly and with a lot of pain. Laurant and Tom were separated for most of their childhood after their parents died - Tom moved in with a family friend in Boston, while Laurant lived with their grandfather (somewhere in Europe, I guess) and after his death, in a boarding school in Switzerland.

Laurant is now living in Tom's adopted home in small town Iowa, and has ingratiated herself with most of the small town community with her volunteering and good deeds. However, she hasn't had much luck with men - enough bad luck, in fact, to get the notice of the local gossip/society columnist, who has even written fake relationships made and broken in her column, mainly to embarrass Laurant. Laurant has never met Nick, Tom's best friend and now an FBI superagent - not until Tom calls him about the confession. (This is kinda odd, since she apparently knows all of Nick's siblings...)

The rest of the book is spent trying to catch the alleged serial killer, whose POV is also told from time to time. He's (theoretically) obsessed with Laurant, so as a ruse to catch him, Nick and Laurant play newly-affianced lovers to draw him in. Of course, while they are doing this, they are also wildly attracted to each other, making the sting operation a little sticky.

Here's what I liked: there was some suspense, and the story did keep me guessing til the end.

Here's what I didn't particularly like:
(a) the small town characters - too "stock", too stereotypical. I'm having a hard time buying the society columnist who prints notices of false engagements, and chases people down the sidewalk. The nosy elderly sisters - ok, they were slightly better than the columnist, but still...
(b) the style of writing wasn't particularly... well, tight is the word that comes to mind. I just found it not that ... pleasing I guess. At some points it was almost too simple, and while the main characters were credible, I just didn't get emotionally involved.

Garwood threw in a lot of ringers and misdirection that were pretty obvious (even though I didn't guess the actual perp until almost at the end). One of the misdirections was way over the top, too, and I think there were some details that needed some 'splaining on that misdirection, like how the actual perp was watching her in an earlier scene after the misdirection was revealed. But I wasn't interested enough to go back to that scene and read it again for clues.

It's the first in a fairly long series - so it fits my Serial Readers Challenge, but nothing else.

1 comment:

Heather said...

I love this book, however I have to say that Noah and Jordan's book is my favorite. I think I have a weakness for the Claybournes though..