Lulu, $16.65, ISBN 978-1-4357-1058-0
Romantic Suspense, 2008
In the prologue of Truth or Dare, I am introduced to poor Rachel Morgan. She is a very successful trader at one of the biggest companies in North America, but yikes, one fine day she comes to work only to have her PA warn her that she is now wanted by FBI agents for what seems a case of embezzlement. At the urging of her PA, she flees the scene before the FBI agents are alerted to her presence. She rushes to her fiancé Nick’s place… only to find his place empty and his phone already disconnected. Needless to say, the wedding is off.
The only clue Rachel has to Nick’s whereabouts is a matchbook left behind by Nick. The matchbook comes from the riverboat casino Missouri Queen so that’s where she is heading next. She is pretty sure that the owner, Darren “Dare” Mc Quinn, must be in cahoots with Nick somehow.
I then turn the page to chapter one, wondering what will happen when Rachel meets Dare Mc Quinn… only to have the authors send me back in time to Rachel’s younger days when she was wanted by the cops after nearly killing her foster brother Brad while fending off his attempts to rape her. She was subsequently sent to prison. Fine, I settle back down to read about Rachel’s traumatic teenage years… only to be thrown back to the present at chapter three where I am subjected to an entire chapter of information dumping about Dare Mc Quinn’s rise from nobody to top dog. His father, Bill, is a judge who likes to take in strays and his latest stray, one Kat Reed, is coming over to get some working experience by filling in as Dare’s assistant.
Kat is actually Rachel and she’s determined to find evidence that Dare is involved in something shady with Nick, only to alas fall in love in the process.
Truth or Dare is actually quite enjoyable in a campy and melodramatic way. The characters are adequate – they could have been better, but they are still capable of behaving reasonably here. The authors however need to exercise some self-editing because this story is full of tedious information dumping and long-winded descriptions of everything and anything. For example, I only need to know the relevant details in a character’s background that play a role in this story. Therefore, the details of Rachel’s past, which could have come straight out of any of VC Andrews’s novels, need not be that detailed. There are many instances when the flow of the story is interrupted and the momentum is lost when the authors get so involved in a flashback scene or a blow-by-blow description of a scene that things come to a standstill for a few pages. There is a rambling quality to the writing, in other words, due to the authors giving equal priority to everything instead of mercilessly cutting out some major scenes that do not add anything to the story.
The authors also overload the main characters with way too many stereotypical trappings of romance novel traits. Rachel is a survivor of what seems like every Little Poor Heroine issue in the formula handbook while Dare has to be a former special ops soldier on top of being a rich fellow in charge of a riverboat. The over-accessory of the characters make them come off more like cartoon characters instead of real people.
Truth or Dare in the end turns out to be much better than I expected it to be after reading the clumsy first few chapters. However, the authors’ technique is still on the rough and unpolished side. The story is adequate, the characters are also adequate, but the authors still haven’t had the hang of their craft yet to do the story and characters justice.