Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-345-45895-8
Romantic Suspense, 2004
From horses to moldy relics to now romantic suspense, Jessica Bird seems to be an author that doesn’t restrict herself to a certain storyline. While I’m all for exploring one’s potential in different kinds of setting, story lines, and pacing, Jessica Bird’s romantic suspense An Unforgettable Lady is however a classic average romantic suspense in that it has the mistake that makes many books in that subgenre just not good: an inability to balance the suspense with the romance, and this imbalance results in a suspense that is nothing more than wallpaper. The hero is quite nice in that he can be obsessive in a sexy manner, but the heroine is on the whole a confusing mess.
Grace Hall is a society lady but her life is more like a Kennedy tragedy in the making than an orgy of bling bling fun. She lives under the thumb of her father and her mother, to the point that this adult woman even lets her mother dictate how she should wear her hair. The result is a quivering doormat of a heroine that comes off like some child-like figurine at times that will either grate on the nerves (which is my reaction) or arouse the reader’s sympathy. Her father recently passed away and she is at the brink of a divorce which isn’t going too well, so the last thing she needs is to be targeted by some killer.
She hires John Smith, a man with a very mysterious past and the owner of the security service firm Black Watch, and his men to protect her, and the electricity that crackles between them may result in something really good this time around, provided that someone puts the killer out of commission before he gets Grace.
John Smith has his moments as a really alpha loner type with a past shrouded with question marks. His dogged obsession over Grace can be really sexy in a dark, twisted way, although I really can’t see why he has to focus his affections on Grace. To be fair to Grace, there are times when she does try to stand up for herself, but her characterization on the whole feels inconsistent and too often her actions feel patterned after plot requirements.
John and Grace, for all their flaws and strengths, are however utterly wasted in a suspense plot that is just not good. The author paces her story very well, but for a romantic suspense story, there is just not enough sense of danger or trepidation to sustain itself. If the author has come up with a different kind of plot for John and Grace, they may make a bigger impact on me, especially John who has so much potential as a sexy dark hero. As it is, he and to a lesser extent Grace feel like only halfway well-drawn characters trapped in a clumsy attempt at romantic suspense that doesn’t work.