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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Body Heat by Brenda Novak

Body Heat by Brenda Novak
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemp, Mystery/suspense, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (448 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewer: Dandelion

Twelve people have been shot at point-blank range and left to rot in the desert sun. It’s Sophia St. Claire’s job to do something about it. She’s Bordertown, Arizona’s new chief of police – and she’s out of her depth.

Help arrives in the form of Department 6 hired gun Roderick Guerrero. As far as Sophia’s concerned, his involvement only makes things worse. Maybe he’s managed to turn his life around. And maybe he’s a good investigator. But as the bastard son of a wealthy local rancher, he has a history he can’t get past. A history that includes her.

Rod refuses to leave town until the killer is caught. He’s not worried about the danger posed by some vigilante. It’s Sophia who threatens him. Because he’s used to risking his life – but his heart is another story.

Novak is a best-selling author, and it’s easy to see why from reading this fast-paced suspense set in the heart of illegal immigration territory. Young, petite Sophia St. Claire is an engaging (if nontraditional) police chief, and Roderick Guerrero is a hunky SEAL operative whose presence in Bordertown shakes up everything from the murder investigation to Sophia’s own desires. This story features enough interesting characters and sub-plots to keep any reader engaged, though at times the amount of backstory needed to fill in Sophie and Rod’s pasts felt a little heavy.

Novak does a compelling job bringing to life a town plagued with illegal immigrants and the lengths to which the citizens will try and prevent them from crossing the border. I always enjoy a story set in a small town, where beauty salons back up to saloons and no one, including the town’s most upstanding folk, is quite who or what they seem. There’s also no lack of chemistry between Sophia and Rod, who crossed paths as high school students and discover after fifteen years that attraction still runs as deep as ever. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Sophia turns the tables and rescues Rod from a precarious situation. She’s a tough chick, no doubt about it, from her tattoo to her Harley, and she stands up for herself and her man even when her job is on the line.

My one criticism of this story is the amount of baggage Sophia and Rod both struggle with. I’m always a little wary of authors who give their main characters every possible emotional difficulty, and I think Novak falls into that trap here. I’d like to enjoy a hero and heroine who are successful because of their pasts, rather than in spite of them.

However, when all is said and done, Body Heat is a fast-paced, enjoyable read. Novak provides plot twists and turns galore, so the reader isn’t really sure until the closing pages who’s responsible for killing the illegals or who’s out to ruin Sophia’s job and reputation. The plethora of minor characters – all well developed – will keep you guessing to the end. If you’re a fan of romantic suspense, this story set in the hot Southwest will satisfy.