Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7400-X
Romantic Suspense, 2003
Hunter Morgan is the pen name of Colleen Faulkner. If you haven’t heard of her, well, I guess now you know why she’s now writing under a new name. Hunter Morgan’s debut romantic suspense The Other Twin dishes out the thrills with adequate reliability, but at the end of the day, it is just another derivative serial killer thriller out there.
Fans of the romantic suspense subgenre will know the drill. We have a heroine who’s related in some way to the serial killer. In this case, it is Sydney MacGregor’s testimony that sent serial killer Charles Eshey behind bars thirty years ago. Charles killed Sydney’s twin sister. Charles targets twins, killing one twin and letting the other live, just like how he killed his own twin brother because he said two of them were too many. Today, Eshey is deemed rehabilitated and he’s set free. That’s when the twin killings begin. No one but Sydney and a lesbian cop named Jessica Manlove (GLAAD is sending a nice email to Ms Morgan soon, I think) suspects that supposedly harmless elderly Eshey is behind the murders. Sydney teams up with crime author Marshall King, Marshall hoping that this case will net him a new bestseller book, and because romantic suspense readers need at least one tepid love thingie to fulfill the “romance” quota, Marshall and Sydney fall in love. Or so Ms Morgan tells me.
Filled to the brim with overused romantic suspense clichés, The Other Twin comes off like a book written by someone who has faithfully studied and obeyed every rule that’s supposed to make its follower a bestselling author. It knows where to swerve and what else to do, but at the end of the day, I am not moved in any way because this book could have pretty much any one of the hundreds of romantic suspense books out there begging to be bought and read. The only thing that differentiates this book from other books with badly developed “one, two sex scenes and that’s a romance” characters and formulaic plot twists is that this one has a rather surprisingly large number of twins running about the place.
I don’t expect a romantic suspense novel to present a fully developed romance. I’ll be content if the characters don’t have sex and they end up only just beginning their relationship – I find that this approach is more to my liking, because it’s more realistic for two people to focus on the crime first and foremost. But I would like to see the development of affection or a bond at least between the main characters, with or without physical consummation of the relationship. There is nothing like a gloomy romantic suspense that ends with a hopeful promise of a new relationship and new beginnings.
But the romance aspect of The Other Twin is tepid, predictable in its “Let’s have sex and pass it off as love, tack on a happy ending, and boy, isn’t love grand?” workings, so that’s strike one. Strike two is the reliable but unoriginal suspense elements. Without any stand-out characterization or innovative thrill, this one is unfortunately too strikingly identical to too many of its fellow (equally average) sisters in the market. If Hunter Morgan wants to stand out from the crowd, she’ll have to do much better than this.