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Monday, July 25, 2011

Merciless by Diana Palmer

Merciless by Diana Palmer
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (304 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Azalea

Can she convince a man to let down his defenses when he's set on guarding his heart? Tall, dark and eligible? That's all that matters to the women of Jacobsville when it comes to handsome and aloof FBI agent Jon Blackhawk. But if it were up to him, he would never settle down. Luckily, Jon has the best gatekeeper: his efficient and reliable assistant, Joceline Perry. Without her help, he'd be at the mercy of husband hunters—but the more he comes to rely on her, the more he notices how invaluable she really is… While Joceline can't deny that her boss is attractive, as a single mother with responsibilities she's determined to be professional. But when Jon is accosted by a criminal seeking revenge, she comes to his aid—fueling the spark that is growing between them. As the attempts on Jon's life increase, Joceline stands by his side. But when the smoke clears, will the man who avoided love realize that all he ever needed was right there all along?

Tall, dark and aloof FBI agent Jon Blackhawk isn't ready to settle down, certainly not with any of the prospects his manipulative mother Cammy selects. Fortunately, his administrative Assistant Joceline Perry has his back. She also has a secret she cannot reveal to anyone, especially her good-looking boss. However, when a revenge-seeking criminal targets Jon, his family and Joceline and her son, the two must work together...and try to deny the attraction simmering between them.

For five years, Joceline has worked for Jon, determined not to let her feelings for the handsome Cherokee/Lakota man show. Joceline is efficient, indispensable to Jon, and willing to dish out the banter, but she's very private about her personal life. The story she tells people is that Markie's father was a soldier who left for Iraq and never came back. As a single mother of an asthmatic boy who may have ADD, Joceline's number one priority is to Markie, to care for him and protect him as best she can. On the job she has an uncanny ability to ferret out information needed for Jon's cases, but she's adamant about not doing menial tasks such as making coffee—not in her job description.

Jon works out of the San Antonio office on the violent crimes squad and specializes in human trafficking crimes, sometimes with his older brother McKuen Kilraven, another federal agent, and Detective Sergeant Rick Marquez. Both Jon and his brother are ultra-conservative. Rumor has it that Jon has never had a woman, but it not for the women's lack of trying. It seems his mother is determined to find a wife for her youngest son, and she knows it's not going to be anyone as immoral as Jon's assistant who has an illegitimate son. Jon meanwhile, is discovering that he's quite attracted to Joceline.

When a known criminal, Harold Monroe, is released, threats begin, first toward Joceline and Markie, then toward Jon and his family, and Jon seeks the help of Rourke, who seems to be a mercenary with South African origins, to guard Joceline and Markie. Eventually, Jon decides they'd be safer at his ranch. What Jon doesn't realize is the killer is after more than just Joceline and Markie. Jon is shot and lands in the hospital. Joceline rushes to his side. They return to the ranch where Cammy Blackhawk descends. Finding Joceline there, Cammy vents her rage on Joceline who now realizes any possibility of a life with Jon is but a dream. Cammy's anger sets off an asthma attack in Markie, and she rushes him to a hospital, only to be followed by a repentant Cammy who shares a few secrets of her own.

I enjoyed Merciless very much despite a few niggles, namely a plot that has been done and done: a drop-dead gorgeous Texan who happens to be Native American, who happens to be rich as Croesus, who happens to have a spectacular ranch and an opinionated overbearing mother. We are told that Cammy Blackhawk is really a nice person, but in the first half of the story she seems more caricature than character. Then she transforms into a gentle and caring woman. The manner in which Ms. Palmer handled Cammy's confession pulled it from the brink for me. At this point I was invested in both the characters and the outcome. There is much more, but mentioning any of it would be a spoiler.

Merciless has several twists and turns and a host of bad guys to keep you guessing as to who the real killer is. There are numerous secrets revealed along the way. There are a couple of love scenes that I would label lightly sensual.

Ms. Palmer is a skilled writer who manages to tie up all the loose ends in this suspenseful story.