Onyx, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-41158-7
Romantic Suspense, 2004
Readers, take note that Ms Hall has completely reverted to her previous pseudonym Gena Hale‘s ways with heroes that make a cold sore and a nail through the scalp so much more preferable than being married to them. If you loathe heroes who treat the heroines like trash without rational reason or satisfying apology, Heat of the Moment could very well make your head explode.
Let me put it this way: it takes a series of arson and many dead bodies to force Teresa “Terri” Vincent and Cort Gamble together. I suspect that we need a presidential homicide to keep them from divorcing one month after the happy ending. Terri, a homicide cop, had a one-night stand with Cort, her partner’s brother, but that pleasant interlude was ruined because he is a complete dickhead who treats Terri beyond the pale. He mocks the tomboyish Terri for not being “female” enough in his estimation and goes as far as to hate her for making him aroused. When he actually starts humiliating her when they meet over the crime scene of a night club fire (simply because he is still lusting after her and he can’t have that), Terri has to ask for a transfer so that she doesn’t have to deal with him anymore.
But a crime boss’s son was killed in the fire and Terri’s superior suspects that Cort, the Fire Marshal, is dirty, so Terri has to work with Cort no matter what. Of course, she knows that Cort is innocent (romance heroines always do, especially when the heroes are using their dignity to clean the soles of their shoes) so she wants to protect him too. When his ex-girlfriends become victims of this arsonist (great, so now he causes his ex-girlfriends to get barbecued – is there any redeeming feature to this guy?), it’s obvious that Cort and the arsonist have some personal issues between them.
Let me get this out of the way. The identity of the arsonist is a total joke, an unfunny one at that, so there goes the suspense. Cort is a jackass who practices sexual harassment in his free time. As he goes after a woman and shreds her pride just because he has a hard-on for her, I suspect that he’s a borderline misogynistic loonybin with the skeletons of a few carved-up dead prostitutes in his closet. Terri isn’t a bad heroine, if I can overlook the author’s overcompensation of Terri’s toughness by overloading her with all kinds of mental baggage, but since Terri keeps trying to “understand” that jackass who treats her like a flawed blow-up doll, I can’t see any happy ending to this relationship.
This is a story where the romance occurs because the author forces the heroine and the hero together even though they go together like OJ and Nicole Simpson. This isn’t opposites attract, this is two similarly unlikeable losers colliding like two Uranium-235 particles in a nuclear reactor until everything becomes unstable and the world explodes in a vivid Chernobyl-flavored conflagration. When that seems like a truly nice end for Cort and Terri, maybe Heat of the Moment really does deserve to burn after all.