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Monday, June 6, 2011

Crimes of the Heart by Debora Ryan



Crimes of the Heart by Debora Ryan
Publisher: Siren Bookstrand
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (197 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rated: 4 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Ever since an accident killed her parents and left her older sister with life-altering injuries, Leah Keenan’s life hasn’t been her own. The insurmountable medical bills force her to desperate action. The company she works for is large. Nobody would notice if she skimmed a few thousand here and there to pay outstanding bills, would they?

The complications Will Dannaker brings are more than Leah needs in her life. Posing as a management intern, he is placed in her care. He isn't an intern; he's a fraud specialist working undercover at his father's company. When Will’s charm fails to penetrate Leah’s shields, he resorts to blackmail to make her go out with him.

As things grow serious between them, the embezzling spirals out of control. Six million dollars are missing—far more than Leah took—and all the evidence Will gathered points to Leah. Everything blows up when she is arrested, and Will is forced to fight his family to prove his love to Leah.

Desperation turned Leah Keenan turn to crime; a clever crime, perhaps a harmless, minor-ish crime. We might even sympathize, possibly even admire Leah’s decision. Nonetheless, it's left her vulnerable to become a certain kind of victim herself.

Will Dannaker seems just as sympathetic, although of course he doesn’t know what she’s been driven to do, or does he? Will has his own agenda – over and above solving any crime. But we can see the ‘why’ behind his actions as well. Sadly – she can’t. Misdirection and miscommunication play a role here, both on purpose, and more subtly, sometimes not. This is definitely one of those stories where a reviewer risks saying too much and giving away some of the surprises!

Will is far from the classic hero…but he has his moments! It seems like somehow, things might indeed work out okay – then suddenly the true levels of the crime are revealed.

We readers are engaged from the first, mainly by the depth of Leah’s character. Her concerns for sister Cecelia, even the old “Forever in Blue Jeans” song, all feel so right and so incredibly, believably human. Ms. Ryan reveals a wonderful gift for setting the stage, welcoming the reader in, and making us feel right to home.

From the first, there is a sense that this is a story we’ll read and then peruse again later. That quick identification with the heroine, her challenges and even – oddly – the setting, bring us in close to the story.

So Will’s introduction is both nice…and awful. Their relationship progresses, wonderfully and … horribly. We hope for a certain resolution, we feel like we can perhaps predict it: but with the skill of an illusionist, Ms. Ryan keeps our eye on the romance, while the crime and the mystery evolve.

Secondary roles, friends like Anne, Dani, and others, are important parts of the whole, and Ms. Ryan never falls into using an easy stereotype. That said, there were a few too many of those distinct characters, and occasionally, they drew us away from what I really wanted to read. Necessary perhaps in terms of the crime, but some of that felt like clutter.

The best of Crimes of the Heart is the driving, determined romance at its heart . This story features solid characters, unpredictable action, a real, believable (and so timely) a mystery, and that subtle something more.

Extraordinary lives take place against a backdrop of ordinary; most anyone could find their work or home mirrored in these pages, pleasantly recognizable. Ms. Ryan’s writing style is straightforward, with just-enough description, action, and thought. This is a comfortable read with surprises -- rather like finding a well-liked familiar dish, with some pleasantly new spices.

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