Secret Passion
by Layle Giusto, contemporary (2000)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-042-5

Secret Passion will be an otherwise standard Arabesque hour (misogynistic rich hero, damsel on fresh start in life, suspense thread) if I didn't find the characters totally unbelievable. Especially the hero, David Martell, who seems more like a character created to fit a plot rather than to depict a person I may meet one day in the bus (okay, Rolls Royce) or something.

Julia Smalls has a problem - she is stalked by a relentless psycho. Now, under a new identity and some kickass martial arts skill under her belt, she is ready to begin life anew. She even has a new job - communications specialist in a firm owned by David. When things get weird and accidents occur around them even as they start the kissy-wissy thing, Julia has to wonder: has that mad loonybin caught with her?

From the moment Julia overhears from her toilet cubicle some not-too-flattering things about her from her colleagues while on her first day, things move into the surreal department where I'm concerned. David and his colleagues actually discuss whether Julia should be hired, because toss her education, she's pretty, and all smart men know that Pretty Faces hide an Evil Soul inside (or something like that). David displays the typical misanthropy to start the initial conflict, then when the plot requires that they make up, he does just that, easy and without any realistic change in his personality. David is like one of those robots to be programmed to display different moods and emotions any time, any place.

Julia fares better as the rather typical witty, feisty heroine who falls inexplicably for the boring David, but she is stuck in a plot with unrealistic characters and a rather tepid suspense thread. Secret Passion is a ho-hum story, not too bad, not too good, just average.

Rating: 73

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