Guardian Groom
by Shelley Cooper, contemporary(1999)
Silhouette Intimate Moments, $4.25, ISBN 0-373-07942-7

Shelley Cooper's Guardian Groom has the annoying bodyguard-ex-cop hero that seems to be ubiquitous in categories. The story is all-time familiar too: Steve Gallagher, dedicated bodyguard-private-investigator-ex-cop's ex-wife Kate Garibaldi is receiving nasty mail from a stalker. She writes a syndicated column that exposes a lot of things politicians and celebrities don't want the public to know, so she has a long list of potential enemies to choose from. After a murder attempt is carried out on her, she panics and calls the cops. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course not! She calls the only man she trusts. Her ex, Steve.

Steve is never a man to share his feelings. This drives Kate away from their marriage, but Steve has never stopped loving her. And Kate, forced in close proximity with Steve, starts having those feelings again. It doesn't help that she dates clichéd lousy dates.

I love the beginning of Guardian Groom. It actually has me all pumped up with excitement as I begin to expect a superior NYPD Blues-style romantic story. Steve is a wonderful, if a bit of stock character, hero. Compassionate, on a crusade to help women out of abusive relationships, this is one special man. And Kate seems like an intelligent, spunky lass with fire. No silly "You can't say I can't go out alone! I'm independent, damn it!" nonsense from her. She actually takes precautions and follows Steve's orders in matters of her safety. She actually knows Steve is much more experienced in this sort of things, and she is determined not to do stupid things. How refreshing! I'm hooked.

Then it happened. I don't know if it's the editors or the author's doing, but the story tumbles into Predictabilityville. Kate starts losing brain cells, getting all hot and bothered in jealousy over Steve's non-existent relationships with other women. And there is the obligatory comfort-him-with-lovemaking-after-he-spilled-his-guts-out-scene. I rolled up my eyes when two thirds into the book, after all those advices from Steve and all her initial intelligence, after getting defense arsenals like whistles, pepper spray, and a cane, she must be caught unawares by the villain. Dim.

What happened? Dang, I was so much enjoying myself when the author realized that hey, don't forget the romantic must-do's one must always put in categories. How disappointing really, that this book, with its promising premises, finally loses steam halfway and gets bogged down by the same old, same dull.

But you know what? Steve is a really wonderful man. I'm keeping this book for him alone. If anything, those folks at Silhouette sure know how to make covers!

Rating: 68

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