TBR Challenge – Category Romance

doubledeception There’s always a TBR pile or several to be had at my house, so I decided to sign on for the 2012 TBR Challenge. This month’s theme is category romance, which made things easy for me. I’m a bit of a category romance hoarder, so I have a box of them in my guest room. To choose this month’s book, I just reached into the box and randomly picked – Double Deception (Harlequin Romantic Suspense, #1667) by Merline Lovelace. It’s an August 2011 title, so it hasn’t been aging in the TBR box as long as some.

When I started the book, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I’ve read a number of Lovelace’s books and my experiences have been all over the map. She’s written some wonderful historicals set in unusual times and places as well as romantic suspense set all over the globe. However, she’s also had a few books that didn’t really work for me. In the end, Double Deception was probably one that I’d grade at C+. It’s a bit better than the average, but still rather uneven.

First, the good parts. If you like exotic settings, you’ll really enjoy the backstory on this one. Though set in modern times, the story has something of a Cold War thriller feel, with Russian and American secret agents working at cross-purposes. In this case, our hero and heroine are on the trail of the legendary Amber Room, which disappeared in World War II. And of course, they are not the only ones interested in the missing treasure.

Clint Black(yes, that’s really his name) is an agent with OMEGA. Victoria Talbot also serves OMEGA, but there is a definite tension between the two. When assigned to work together, Clint isn’t sure he can trust Victoria. The two are assigned to follow a possible lead on the Amber Room, and Victoria’s mysterious past and ability to function in Russia make Clint a little suspicious. He wonders if Victoria could be a double agent.

The tension between Clint and Victoria, the treasure hunt and the intriguing setting of the story make the suspense portion of this book flow quite nicely. It’s a complex tale for a 218 page book, but Lovelace makes this part of things work quite well.

However, once romance begins working its way into the story, things get a little more uneven. First of all, did the hero really have to be named Clint Black? Every time I saw his full name, I thought I was going to have “Something That We Do” running through my head forever. Nothing like having a way overplayed song from high school/college days stuck in your head to really add to that reading experience.

In addition, the pacing of the romance felt somewhat off, especially in contrast with the suspense plotting, which really was quite strong. Clint and Victoria start off at odds, Clint can’t trust Victoria because he thinks she might be in cahoots with the Russians – so far, so good. However, Clint goes back and forth on his trust issue for so long that his ultimate falling in love with Victoria seems a bit rushed. In addition, he mistrusts Victoria for so long that I found it a little odd that she would still accept him. If I were her, the constant dance of attraction and suspicion would require a bit more by way of apology.

Double Deception definitely has a strong suspense plot. If you’re willing to accept a romance that isn’t equally strong, you may enjoy this one. It’s not the strongest way to kick off the TBR Challenge, but given some of the doozies I’ve read over the years, I could have done much, much worse.

– Lynn Spencer

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6 Responses to “TBR Challenge – Category Romance”

  1. Leigh says:

    I signed up for the 2012 read 12 new authors. I thought that the book I was reading now for review would count but discovered the author is using a pseudonym and I have read a couple of her books. However thanks to a friend sending two boxes of books discovering a new to me author shouldn’t be difficult plus I have two gift certificates for Amazon.

  2. Fay says:

    Ummm, what is a “category romance”. I tried to use Wikipedia (so as to avoid asking an ignorant question with my name attached), but they were no help today. Maybe there are others out there who are also at the “Romance 101″ stage. Thanks!

  3. Leigh says:

    Fay, category romances are the small romances released every month by publishers such as Harlequin like Harlequin Superromance, Harlequin Presents, Harlequin Romance. If you look to the right of this page, there is an example of one – Reconcilable Difference by Elizabeth Ashtree.

  4. SN says:

    Oh the Amber Room. I’m sold! I’ve been there – where the room is, but the amber is not.

    I adore romantic suspense, but it is usually better in a longer book. The category books I read are generally straight contemporaries.

  5. SuperWendy says:

    This does sound interesting! I can’t remember the last time I read a romantic suspense that had more of a “espionage”-style plot (seriously, how many serial killers are there running around in RomanceLandia?).

    • LynnAAR says:

      SuperWendy: This does sound interesting! I can’t remember the last time I read a romantic suspense that had more of a “espionage”-style plot (seriously, how many serial killers are there running around in RomanceLandia?).

      If you’re looking for a break from serial killers, this might be up your alley. The espionage plotting is pretty cool, though it does cross somewhat into the realm of the super secret special forces stories that seem to proliferate.