In A Heartbeat
by Kayla Perrin, contemporary (2003)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-353-X

The best thing about Kayla Perrin's In A Heartbeat is that the hero Michael Robbins and the heroine Diamond Montgomery's romance is decent and readable. However, the external stalker conflict never really gels with the story and the characters themselves never rise from being very familiar stereotypes.

Diamond is Lady D, a popular radio talkshow host in the South Florida region. Once, she was attacked by a nutcase stalker named Clay. When she learns that Clay is now free from the loonybin house, she packs her bags and decides to flee the area. That's a smart move. What is not smart is her not knowing where she is going to flee to and not seeing the road until she hits ex-cop Michael Robbins' car. He has a weakness for damsels-in-distress, so he takes her back to his place for some platonic comfort, and then her car gets towed away in the morning! With all her possessions inside! Isn't plot contrivance grand?

Michael is a fimilar ex-cop character: he has lost his wife to another man after their baby died from SIDS and the marriage fell apart. So he will never love again, yadda yadda yadda. Diamond has rebounded from a cheating ex by sleeping with a weird guy (no, not Michael, the guy before Michael). This cheating ex is before that guy she fell in love with, the guy that died in a car crash. So now she will never put her heart in danger, blah blah blah. You get the idea.

Still, the author never drags the tired old Never Love Again blues too long. Diamond and Michael eventually give in to the love thing just when it's time to do so. The author's allowing the characters to evolve and adapt to their changing emotions is what makes this romance more believable to me. The characters treat each other pretty decently, and apart from a few contrived misunderstandings or conflicts - the author should really look into this problem with her stories - they are generally well-suited for each other. Michael and Diamond are reluctant to love, but they don't demonize the entire population of the other sex.

However, to get to the romance, one also has to accept the fact that an ex-cop, a supposedly good one when he was with the cops, and a woman who knows she is in danger will take practically no precautions against the possibility that Clay is leering at them from nearby. Some of the things Michael do here make me really question whether his leaving the police force is due to, er, other more obvious factors related to his competence. Everyone and Ms Perrin seems to forget about Clay until it's time to drag poor Clay, The Biggest Plot Contrivance Of Them All, out for the final showdown.

At only 242 pages, In A Heartbeat is a short and easy-to-digest book. But with pleasant and readable being the only best things I can say about the book, the book is more of a pleasant and forgettable diversion than a real meaty story to chew on. The suspense is wallpaper, the characters while pleasant are predictable, and it is too easy to put down this book and soon forget that it ever crossed my path.

Rating: 76

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