Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-167-2
Romantic Suspense, 2016
Poor Lucas Morgan. He is running late to meet his grandmother, but he has no idea that he’s actually too late. First, a sedan almost rams into his car as it speeds past him. And then, he spots his grandmother on the edge of the road, dead. Apparently there was a car accident, and Lucas manages to pull a woman from the drivers’s seat of his grandmother’s car before the car explodes. No, the explosion doesn’t barbecue poor granny’s corpse – that’s probably too morbid for a serious and sad drama like Chasing Memories.
That woman, India Leone, wakes up later in the hospital… with amnesia. How convenient, Lucas thinks in disgust. Never mind, he has a clever plan. He will give her a job at this hotel he is developing – she’s an interior designer (how convenient!) – and he will then stick close to her, scowling at her, snarling like only a romantic hero would, until he catches her in the act of faking amnesia. He knows that she has been driving the car, despite witnesses saying otherwise, and he knows that she is a drug addict, despite toxicology reports coming back negative. His cousin tells him that India was hired, and later fired by his grandmother just two days before the accident. So, things don’t add up in Lucas’s opinion.
Meanwhile, India is being hounded by an ex, and she naturally needs to accept Lucas’s job offer because, just like every other romance heroine, she has not many choices to consider at that moment. Also, she was raped when she was sixteen, therefore she has intimacy issues. Not that this stops her from having horny dreams featuring an unknown guy – sexual trauma as an accessory to make the heroine more of a victim and therefore more “romantic” has been in fashion since forever, after all, and we all know all these heroines need to get over their intimacy issues is a big one from the romance hero. And when Lucas scowls at her like someone who couldn’t poo in a week, she gets hot – “the tips of her breasts tightened” is the author’s descriptive phrase – so yes, Lucas’s big one, right ahead.
India’s memories slowly come back as she is stirred into lust-addled frenzy in Lucas’s presence. They have dated before… flirted… kissed! And then Lucas tells her that she was found at the site of dear granny becoming pavement pancake, and she’s like no, no, no, ooh. Seeing her all traumatized, Lucas is convinced that she can’t be faking it. He also can’t resist a damsel in distress, and now it’s just a matter of finding out what happened on that evening when granny got ran down.
Having read the author’s previous book with this publisher, I was initially worried that I would get another Harlequin Presents-style soap opera where the hero spends the entire story berating the heroine. Fortunately, the characters may have issues, but the story doesn’t dwell into their tired angst and baggage as much as I initially feared. The later two-thirds of this story focuses considerably on the mystery of that day of the accident, so the two characters never feel that dull and by-the-numbers. Lucas softens up at India early, and he proves to be a pretty nice and protective fellow (although the heroine naturally gets kidnapped by the villain for the obligatory rescue moment), while India is too busy thinking about the accident or getting all randy over Lucas to bleat about her intimacy issues.
I am disappointed by the villain, though. Once again, it’s all or nothing – the villain is pure crazy, instead of being someone who is just ruthless or evil enough to just want money. No, the villain has to pretty much go MUAHAHAHA and fulfill the deranged lunatic trope. As if the story isn’t already melodramatic enough with all that amnesia, bad sex with exes, and conversations that look like they are taken from a soap opera script! Of course, the soap opera elements here have their charms, but a little something here and there in Chasing Memories that doesn’t feel so derivative -such as a different kind of villain – would have made it stand out a little more.