by Denise A Agnew, contemporary (2009)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-59578-511-4
The cover of Denise A Agnew's In Her Defense has some hypnotic qualities, if you ask me, because I keep going back to look at it. Those smoldering eyes, those cheekbones, and the lovely shades of blue... I think it's the same guy that is on the cover of Dee Tenorio's Love Me Tomorrow, heh.
The story is a familiar romantic suspense. We have a small town, El Torro, and of course the Deputy Sheriff is also an action man dude who can do kung-fu and such without breaking a sweat. That will be Deputy Mick MacGilvary, by the way. We then have the heroine who has finally come home after a sojourn in the mysterious big city. Celeste Rice is fleeing from a nasty ex-boyfriend and when she inherits her late aunt's place in El Torro - if you don't know by now, heroines in contemporary romances tend to have generous aunts - she figures that she may as well come back to El Torro.
As you can probably guess, Celeste and Mick share a history and when the story opens, Celeste decides that a hot "torro-torro-torro in El Torro, yee-haw!" session with Mick is what she needs to exorcise him from her system. As countless Harlequin Blaze heroines have learned, things never work like this in romance novels. Meanwhile, the bad ex shows up like a bad penny, allowing Mick to puff up and play the protective hunk.
In Her Defense reminds me a lot of a Harlequin Blaze-Silhouette Romantic Suspense hybrid, so I won't be surprised if someone tells me that this story is initially written with getting into either of those two lines being the targeted objective. This is not a bad thing, mind you, it's just my way of saying that this story is very, very familiar if you are a fan of either of those two category romance lines.
On the positive side, this is a well-written story with smooth and compelling pacing. Even better, the characters are so adorable. Celeste could have become another stereotypical damsel-in-distress, but Ms Agnew does a pretty good job in fleshing out Celeste and letting me know that there are some depths to Celeste. Mick is a very nice balance of insecurities and GI Joe heroism - the way Ms Agnew manages to show his softer side without going too overboard and making him an emo brat is very nicely done. These two characters have good chemistry and I can definitely believe in their romance.
It's just too bad that the story is so familiar. These characters deserve a plot that is a little less of the same old stuff. But given how enjoyable this story is, that makes In Her Defense a pretty good cozy read, all things considered.
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