Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hot - Julia Harper

Julia Harper
Grand Central Publishing

Contemporary Romance/Humor

“In Turner Hastings’ opinion, the bank robbery didn’t go truly bad until Yoda shot out the skylight.” If anything, Turner’s opinion minimizes the truth when, on a sleepy Saturday morning in a small Wisconsin town, two masked men (one Yoda and one SpongeBob SquarePants) inexpertly holding sawed-off shotguns burst into the bank and start making demands for money. And, really, once the Jedi Master had shot out the skylight, and his pal, SpongeBob, dressed for success in a bright yellow mesh tank top that not only matches his mask but displays his remarkably hirsute nature, has shot out the front door of the bank itself, things are not likely to get very much worse. The tellers hand over the money, the quietly but clearly instruct the robbers on their next course of action, which would be 1. Take the money and 2. Run away.

After that the two police cars of the town come screaming along main street and everyone who has even the slightest reason to be there is wandering around the scene, confusing it. Under cover of this confusion, Turner sees the chance she’s been waiting for during four years of working as a Saturday teller; the chance to clear the name of her Uncle Rusty. Turner calmly enters the office of the bank president, Calvin Hyman, takes the key to Calvin’s safe deposit box, and removes the contents. When she’s done with that, she looks straight at the nearest security camera and delivers a smile that might almost be a smirk. And then, Turner goes home, packs up a few things, and goes on the run.

FBI agent John MacKinnon gets the call, since banks are federal jurisdiction. He spends hours with local law enforcement and Calvin Hyman, who also happens to be the town mayor with ambitions of running on a state level. Searching Turner’s vacant home, John discovers a photo of her Uncle Rusty. Four years ago, Rusty was accused of embezzling from the same bank. He died before the case was disposed of. It’s the first hint of anything resembling a clue, and John decides to follow it. Taking a chance, he calls Turner’s cell phone number. They’re both shocked when she answers. Over time, and while Turner is on the run, the two strike up a sort of relationship over the phone; a relationship that certainly transcends your average cops-and-robbers interactions. They’ve both got their own jobs to do, the question is, which one will uncover the entire truth first? And what happens after that?

Julia Harper has won the hearts of historical romance readers everywhere with THE RAVEN PRINCE, THE LEOPARD PRINCE, and THE SERPENT PRINCE, written under the name Elizabeth Hoyt. This is a seamless transition to the genre of contemporary romance with a good dose of light comedy and action.

The characters, especially Turner and John, are realistic and completely believable. It’s quite simple to suspend your disbelief and go along with this fun, frothy ride. Even the bad guy has depth. Calvin isn’t your cardboard-cutout villain. Sure, he’s done bad stuff, but you almost have to feel sorry for him for having to live in a home decorated almost exclusively in pig motif. Thinking back, though, that motif might have been perfect for him. If you’re looking for a speedy ride, light reading, an unusual romance, and quite a few laughs, you need to get HOT right now. I hope this isn’t a one-time experiment for this talented author.

Rating: 8
January 2008
ISBN# 978-0-446-61917-2 (paperback)


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