Harlequin Romantic Suspense, $5.75, ISBN 978-1-335-45645-8
Romantic Suspense, 2018
Well, Deborah Fletcher Mello’s debut in this line, Seduced by the Badge, is marketed as a romantic suspense through and through, but that’s stretching the definition of that phrase considerably. This one is only a romantic suspense if we consider that any story with at least one main character being a law enforcement officer qualifies as one.
Detective Armstrong Black is assigned a new partner, Danni Winstead, and… er, that’s it. Oh, I know, the back cover synopsis talks about how he wants to take down a trafficking ring, but the bulk of this story is just these two talking, going places, meeting people, hello there, we’re all so hot and talented and beautiful and woooooo. The suspense feels like a filler, although it barely registers for so much of the story that it’s a very light kind of filler. The suspense thing gets a bit more prominent in the late third of the book, but for the rest, you can randomly flip to any page and you’d find instead – no, not scenes of dead bodies, forensic investigations, or our main characters interrogating suspects but rather, them ordering pizza, meeting friends and family members (Armstrong’s brothers want you to buy their books too), some friend of Danni is pregnant… yes, this is a romantic suspense as much as I am the Queen of England.
I suppose if I adjust my expectations, this one isn’t too bad. The chemistry feels muted as the author is juggling between selling me future books and reassuring me that Danni and Armstrong are beautiful, flawless people, but the hero and the heroine are level-headed types who communicate and get along very well. There is nothing particularly silly or grating here, although by that same token, there is nothing particularly romantic suspense-y as well for way too much of the story.
I do have one reservation though. Danni talks a lot about how women are not taken seriously in her line, which I can empathize with, but her response to this is to fire the first shot and be antagonistic only to apologize later. For example, her first meeting with Armstrong sees her being insufferable for no reason, only for her to apologize to him later. Another notable example is how she automatically refuses to wear a wire while going undercover, because she somehow knows best, forcing her superior to explain how they have this awesome, harder to detect wire that they want her to use. So yes, she goes, oops. A female character that always ends up going, “Oopsie! Sorry!” isn’t furthering the case of women being competent in this line of work, if you ask me – the more she has to backtrack after being corrected by the men around her, the harder it is for people to take seriously her point about how women can do the job well too.
Anyway, Seduced by the Badge is readable and well-written, so it gets three oogies mostly by default. But do note that it’s not very suspenseful – it is more of a watered down version of the author’s books from the Kimani line, just add in some cop uniform. I personally won’t recommend people to rush out to get it. There are better books by the author, ones that fit the line they are published in far more better too.