by Sharon Cullen, contemporary (2009)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-537-5
Alexandre Juran and his wife Tess are on the brink of divorce. They were the perfect couple once upon a time, but, alas, things happened. It was not easy for Tess to be married to a cop, but Alex made it worse for her by prioritizing his work over his marriage. He also took on the most reckless and dangerous jobs because he never considered back then the implications of his foolish sense of invulnerability on his marriage. When their child died shortly after coming into this world and Alex subsequently spent more time at work to drown his sorrows, a grieving Tess believed that they could never make it as husband and wife and kicked him out of the house.
When Obsession opens, Alex had been shot while working undercover to infiltrate a drug ring. Upon hearing of this, Tess rushes to his side, postponing the divorce proceedings because she can't bear to do this to Alex while he's injured. Besides, a part of her is still hoping that somehow they could go back the way they used to be, and she also needs to take care of this man as the doctor says that poor Alex will need four months or so to recover.
While Alex is initially unhappy with Tess being back in his life, he soon realizes that his presence in her life may put her in danger. After all, the person who shot him and left him for dead would surely come back to finish the job. The problem is, he can't remember the details of the events led to his close brush with death. If you read this story, however, you will know from the first page that the villain is - brace yourself - Tess' brother. Talk about a dysfunctional family indeed.
Obsession is a solid read because it has a very strong and well written emotional component. Alex and Tess are two realistic characters who have hurt each other very badly without meaning to, the way two people who care for each other can sometimes do, and now they are making a second go at making things right. These two characters talk to each other, sometimes they yell at each other, but throughout it all, they are heading in the right direction, and that is good. I like how the author doesn't make it easy for Tess and Alex. While they are both to be blamed for the collapse of their previous attempt at a happily ever after, these two don't magically get an easy second chance just because they are intelligent and reasonable enough to talk and accept the reasons for that failure. There are tough decisions to be made. Can Tess accept that Alex is still going to be a cop after he has recovered? Can Alex change enough to stop shutting Tess out when she needs him most? Compromises have to be made by the two of them. The fun is seeing them cry, yell at each other, and cling to each other as they make their way there.
What makes this story falter slightly is the suspense subplot, which is not smoothly integrated. This subplot takes a backseat in a most unrealistic manner throughout the middle of the book as the characters focus on their issues, only to surface later in the story in a typical average romantic suspense manner. I also don't understand why the villain has to be a crazy whackjob type. There are already so many of these ranting crazy villains in the genre. I personally think an efficient, ruthless, and intelligent villain would have been more interesting in this story rather than the standard crazy lunatic bad guy.
Still, the strong emotional drama in Obsession makes it a very satisfying and entertaining read.
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