Know By Heart
by Angela Winters, contemporary (2001)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-215-0

Know By Heart is all about industrial espionage. The author Angela Winters however, does a great job creating enough balance so that the relationship of Jesse Grant, nosey reporter, and Cole Nicholson, stuffy moneypants isn't relegated to the backseat. I still think the espionage part is kinda pants, but hey, who's complaining when the romance is good enough to make up for it.

Jesse is in the Silicon Valley covering about racial discrimination in a major company called Top Pressure. Cole is the definite candidate for the post of CEO in an upcoming firm called Netstyles, who, while watching the protests taking place from outside his window, sees Jesse for the first time and alakazam, who is that beaut hot momma? Wowee. He must find out.

But hot sex will have to wait. Jesse's friend Samantha dies in what seems like suicide and now she wants to get to the bottom of it. Cole has to deal with his own problems - important files have gone missing from his firm and he suspects espionage. Everything soon leads to a Big Plot that, er, brings to mind cheesy hacker-computer-terrorist movies like AntiTrust.

The plot isn't much to shout about, and the recent dotcom failures in Silicon Valley and beyond are strangely never mentioned. Then again, this is a romance novel - who needs financial troubles, eh? But while I'm not impressed with the plot, I love the characters. Jesse is spunky, and yes, she can do some stupid things at times, but she's not too bad. She and Cole have this thing between them that is conveyed very well by the author. They have chemistry. And the secondary characters are amusing too, particularly this best friend of Jesse who, nursing a heartbreak, just can't draw anything but naked men in her art.

Snappy dialogues, a romance with great chemistry and sexual tension, and two likeable characters make up for whatever plot deficiencies this story has. This is my second Angela Winters book, and I like her style. I wish her next book will be longer than this one though, which is just barely 250 pages.

Rating: 86

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