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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Last Ride on the Merry-Go-Round by Judith Rochelle

Last Ride on the Merry-Go-Round by Judith Rochelle
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (263 pages)
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Fern

Dino Brancuzzi had harbored a latent desire for Jennifer LaCroiz for twelve years, but then she was a matched pair with his friend, Ethan Caine. Then Ethan calls him late one night to tell him she's shown up on his doorstep, with her daughter, and the killers from a stolen antiquities ring hot on her trail. Hiding her in his home in Key West while he and Ethan search for the killers, all the old feelings come bubbling to the surface and passion explodes between them in the heat of a tropical night. Can he find the killers in time to save Jen and her daughter? Can the three of them have a future together after all this time?

Jennifer Sutherland is in trouble. After witnessing her husband’s murder along with her daughter, she escapes and flees the scene of the crime. She wasn’t told much by her now deceased spouse, aside from the fact he had fallen in with bad people. Desperate, she turns to a man from her past. Former covert agent and mercenary Ethan Caine is someone that is ruthless enough to protect her and Deanne. Of course, if he’s not willing to step up to the plate and offer his assistance, she always has her ace in the hole–Deanne is the daughter he left behind when he got Jen pregnant and left on another “mission.” When she arrives at his home, she discovers a changed Ethan, his wife, and their son. After the truth is revealed, Ethan promises to do anything and everything to help. Soon, the entire gang is on the case, and Jen is handed over into the care of Dino Brancuzzi.

Dino is shocked when he comes to escort the one time party-girl, Jen LaCroix, to his place in Key West. Years ago, she captivated him, and time hasn’t changed much. She’s still beautiful, but she’s matured. Gone is the wildness he once admired from afar, replaced with fear and dread. Then and there he decides he’ll do whatever it takes to protect Jen and her daughter while giving them back their lives. He wants to see the spark in Jen’s eye that always fascinated him and hopes when it’s all said and done, he’ll have a place by her side.

Last Ride on the Merry-Go-Round is a story that is broken apart only to be pieced back together like an intricate puzzle. The mystery surrounding the stolen artifacts that have placed Jen in danger isn’t cut and dry, nor is it a sub-plot. Rather, the romance takes a back seat as the suspense and whodunit questions remain front and center. I was a bit disappointed in this, as the declarations of a proposed future between Dino and Jen seemed a trifle rushed. The chemistry is definitely there, but the page count devoted to why they would even conceive of a future with one another is notably absent. I would have loved to have had more time with just the two of them. Jen, though memorable as the story progressed, was hard to relate to initially, and I had a difficult time believing that as wife and mother she would be accepting of a husband’s continual absences, especially as she claimed to have married John to provide a father for her daughter. As for Dino Brancuzzi, well, that’s a different matter all together. He’s sexy, intelligent, and does what’s necessary to get the job done. He’s not an easy man, but he’s a fair one. You’ll love him right from the start.

There is an enormous cast of secondary characters as well. However, when I finally got them all separated, things moved along smoothly, and I tore through the pages. Aside from the continual references to merry-go-rounds and brass rings that are an obvious throw back to the title, this is a very clever story that has been carefully constructed and will keep you on your toes. The deeper you delve into the mystery, the more eager you will be to solve the puzzle.

If you like suspense, mystery, intrigue, and plenty of twist and turns along the way, then step right up and get in line for the Last Ride on the Merry-Go-Round.