by Lorelei James, contemporary (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 1-59998-318-4
Running With The Devil revolves around the world's largest biker rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, which apparently is more hedonistic than anything I can think of. If I have a thing for ugly tattoos and sweaty bodies smelling of beer and leather, I'll be on the first flight to this party come August, I tell you.
Drake March, a DEA agent currently undercover, is mingling among the bikers and their groupies hoping to meet Kenna Jones, the only person whose information is contained among the computer files belonging to the now-dead informant Jerry Travis. He is pleasantly surprised to discover Kenna to be a tough-talking "Ms 40C" complete with sass-and-brass attitude. Since Jerry's records show that he'd paid Kenna ten thousand dollars in the previous year, Drake wonders whether Kenna was blackmailing Jerry when Jerry died under mysterious circumstances.
Kenna, however, isn't what Drake believes her to be. She's a grad student making money to pay off her tuition. Apparently bikers are willing to plonk down a thousand dollars or so just to get hot women like Kenna to sit on their bikes or be paraded around town like trophies. Wait, is this real? Dang, someone should have told me about Sturgis when I was working part-time on measly wages all those years ago. Anyway, Kenna was Jerry's moll-for-hire and now Drake wants her to be his moll-for-hire as well, only he's telling her to cooperate or he'll have her behind hauled into the slammer for solicitation. But as those two bicker and lust after each other, someone starts making all kinds of moves in order to kill Kenna. Who is doing this? And why?
I don't believe I have come across horndogs as ridiculous as Kenna and Drake. Really, these two are constantly in heat for each other even as they argue and bicker to the point that they still want to jump each other's bones even when she's injured. It becomes very implausible when these two constantly go from annoyance to lust in the blink of an eye, as if they are robots that change their emotions with the press of a switch. Kenna and Drake become predictable fast when it becomes apparent that their antagonistic behavior follows the "everything leads towards their private parts" pattern.
Perhaps if the author has developed her characters as much as she has Drake well-endowed, Running With The Devil will be a more enjoyable sexy romantic suspense romp. As it is, the characters spend so much time lusting and arguing that it comes to no surprise that Drake isn't the most competent undercover agent around as he constantly gets Kenna battered up and injured while she's under his supervision. The suspense is a no-brainer as well since the villain fits the romantic suspense stereotype in every way. After all, if someone is being very nice and protective of the heroine while the hero is dragging her all over the place like she's a sack of turnips, of course that protective person turns out to be the villain. We don't want anyone upstaging our hero, after all.
Running With The Devil suffers from too much adolescent lusting and groping and not enough character development, I'm afraid. Oh, and the fact that the two characters meet and supposedly fall in love in the matter of days doesn't improve matters, not when the relationship between them feels more like a schoolyard attraction than anything solid and genuine.
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