HQN, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-80214-2
Romantic Suspense, 2017
Locked in Temptation is the third book in Brenda Jackson’s The Protector series, but it can stand alone on its own, provided that readers new to the series don’t mind wading through a crowd of characters from previous books screaming at these readers to buy the previous books too, as well as reams of description of these characters’ back stories. But once all this necessary pain in the ass chapters are done with and the author goes straight into romantic suspense territory, things become better.
The first third or so of the book is pure romance. Stonewall Courson – yes, that’s his name – is the ex-con turned elite security expert and billionaire (of course) who is already dry humping heroine Joy Ingram’s rear end by the time this book opens. They date, grope, rehash what seems like the same ten things so many times that I wonder whether I’m stuck in some Memento moment, and finally have sex after what seems like forever. The sex is awesome, of course, and with that done with, the author finally lets Joy do her job and look into what seems like a homicide case, the victim linked to some kind of surrogate mother ring.
I personally wonder how sustainable is a surrogate mother business is these days, considering that we have made significant advances in fertility treatment to reduce surrogacy into more of an option for couples in which the mother really can’t carry the child to full term for whatever reason. And yet, in this story, there are couples who act like surrogacy is the first and only option, when it is rarely the case these days. I’m not sure whether the author was missing a few pages of her research notes while writing this thing, or she was taking some creative liberties, but I end up scratching my head a few times while reading this thing.
Back to this book, the writing can be bad enough to provide some unintentional laughs. What the author believes to be sexy often comes off as teenage-tier fanfiction level of cringe.
Joy knew that wasn’t true. She knew that if she hadn’t gotten Acklin’s phone call, she would be naked by now in Stonewall’s bed with him thrusting in and out of her. The area between her legs tingled at the thought.
Mmm-hmm, isn’t that sexy, fam? Is that area between your legs tingling too, or if you’re like me, are you grimacing at the “thrusting in and out”?
Stonewall’s entire character can be boiled down into two things: big fat you-know-what and action hero to the rescue. Oh, and he has money, so he’d shower you plenty of nice things if you can find time to enjoy these things since he’d always be in the area between your legs thrusting in and out.
Fortunately, Joy is a far better written character, so much so that it can be argued that this is her story. She’s the one doing all the investigating, and competently too, and Stonewall only shows up in the later parts of the book when our heroine has a tingling in that area. Oh, and when he needs to flex his muscles to remind everyone that no matter how competent the heroine is, she is still panting after that him and he’d always be on top in every way that counts. The suspense part of the story isn’t particularly innovative or groundbreaking, but it is far more interesting than anything the author has ever written in a long, long time, hence I see this as a cause for celebration. Considering how bad the author’s last few efforts were, the fact that the bulk of this story isn’t dumb, annoying, or horrible makes it a book to raise a glass to.
I know, that’s a backhanded compliment, but given that I enjoyed the author’s old books only to cringe at her more recent output, you can only imagine my relief at not finding this book to be as awful as the ones that came before it. It’s readable, and therefore, for a Brenda Jackson book in 2017, it also qualifies as an “OH MY GOD, AWESOME!” book. But given that Locked in Temptation is mostly suspense, with the romance being reduced to sex scenes that pop up now and then, readers looking for romance first and foremost may want to approach this one with caution.