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Monday, March 15, 2010

Carolina Heat by Christi Barth

Carolina Heat by Christi Barth
Publisher: Eternal Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: Full (253 pages)
Heat: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 Books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Put a workaholic Yankee together with an amiable Southerner and watch the sparks fly! Annabelle travels to Charleston, where she stumbles across the trail of a long-buried Civil War mystery and along the way finds steamy passion, steadfast friends, mortal danger, and the love of her life.

Well-known journalist Annabelle Carlyle is stunned by the personal twist of her latest assignment: her best friend Vanessa is missing. Annabelle goes undercover in the Old South to search for answers. Full of thick accents and a way of life rooted in the past, Charleston is as foreign and strange a place as any she's visited. Before finding a single clue, Annabelle encounters a sexy man she can't shake.

Tall, dark and charming, Mark Dering is happy to show the gorgeous Yankee his hometown. He's captivated by the quick witted, quick tempered redhead. But when they're shot at, he realizes she's far more than just another tourist. Soon they're deep into a mystery that goes way back to the Civil War. For once Annabelle is in over her head. Desperate to find Vanessa, she reluctantly accepts Mark's help and it isn't long before romance blooms.

The stakes grow higher when a body is discovered. Someone is willing to kill to keep a century old Confederate secret hidden. With her best friend missing and a killer on the loose, it's the worst possible moment for Mark to try and unlock Annabelle's heart. Or is love exactly what her life's been missing?

In Carolina Heat Annabelle Carlyle barrels into Charleston at a moment’s notice, resigned to taking on her next journalism assignment, and immediately gets a whole lot more than she bargained for.

For starters, she happens into a helpful handsome hunk with stunning muscles. His tan nearly more extraordinary than his physique and he sports a southern drawl as sweet as warm honey. Mark has a nice sense of humor too, immediately making light of his aid, calling it his daily ‘rescue of damsel in distress.’

Just as we settle in to enjoy the two of them getting to know one another, the plot leaps in another direction entirely. Annabelle’s boss calls, but with an amazing lack of details about her actual assignment. Go see the city, he tells her. We (and she) can tell there is more to this than a travel story, but what, exactly? She’s hardly there to smell the magnolias, but what exactly she’ll be looking into intrigues us as much as her. Only slowly do we (or our heroine) gain information on the recently missing Civil War buff/museum curator. Something is going on and it's immediately apparent…

Annabelle is always willing to think the worst in any situation, so between work-stress, the secret search, and Mark’s innuendos, she’s decidedly leaning toward short tempered, snappy decisions. Given her reactions to some comments, we don’t know if she’s a bit shrewish, or if Mark is a tiny bit creepy.

Ms. Barth builds a wonderfully involved story. With attention to small detail, from very internal things like personal attitudes, to more descriptive passages of the smothering, humid heat, she really brings this story to life.

The odd happy coincidence keeps the romance end of things moving along, even if somewhat tempestuously, but still, it doesn’t take much imagination to grasp where it is going. Snappy dialogue and moments of suspense keep things moving right along. Some intimate moments are simply smoking… and I love the fact that even though a lot happens, (and there were other important characters, even Annabelle’s male friend Jonathan,) Ms. Barth never lets us lose sight of the central romance.

Feel like you’ve met a real charmer in historic Charleston, yourself! Carolina Heat has all the charm suggested by a sweet southern accent with more than a touch of spice!

Do read.