Right Here, Right Now

HelenKay Dimon
March 2008, Romantic Suspense (Washington DC)
Brava, $14.00, 304 pages, Amazon ASIN 0758222238

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Hot

Right Here, Right Now is a hot, Romantic Suspense story with a hero and heroine who both work for the government and both keep secrets from each other. It's entertaining enough in its way, if a little unbelievable.

Gabby Pearson is absolutely furious when Reed Larkin – the boyfriend she really likes – breaks up with her in a restaurant. He takes her completely off guard; she was just planning to take their relationship to the next level (in other words, sleep with him). Instead, he gives her all the familiar dreaded lines ("It's not you…it's me!"), and ends up with a glass of wine poured over his head in front of a restaurant full of interested onlookers. Gabby further embarrasses him by giving him the kiss of his life in the parking lot, and then walking away while he's all hot and bothered.

Reed's action was actually the result of a noble impulse. He didn't really want to break up with Gabby, but he felt that their relationship placed her in danger. The whole thing began as a work assignment; Reed works for a top secret branch of the Division of Homeland Security, and Gabby has a meeting scheduled with a slippery character. Reeds' job is to find out whether Gabby is involved with this shady guy, and he's pretty sure that Gabby's clean.

But when he leaves the restaurant, his boss confronts him and tells him that his job is not over. She orders him to apologize to Gabby and get back into her good graces. It's a tall order, but Reed does as he is told. However, when he arrives at Gabby's workplace, it becomes clear to him that she is not just the simple accountant she has been pretending to be. Her department is highly guarded, and she has a government ID badge (which Reed steals). Though Gabby is understandably leery (and annoyed that it apparently took a break-up for Reed to truly notice her), she can't seem to resist Reed's charm.

Gabby really is an accountant, but her work is more unusual than she lets on. Her organization secretly reviews financials so that the government can catch bad guys. Her top secret meeting is actually an effort of her part to break away from the desk and see some real field action. But as Gabby and Reed get to know each other better (and start sleeping together) they both notice that something is a little off. Both of their workplaces seem to be too secretive, and neither of them is truly in the loop. The fact is, they have both lied to each other and omitted important details about their jobs. Will they be able to figure out what is going on, and learn to trust each other?

The best part of this book is the beginning. The restaurant dumping is a great hook; it made me interested in the story. I couldn't help liking Reed, which is some achievement considering that his whole "dumping the heroine for her own good" behavior is a standard romance stock in trade (and usually an annoying one). Reed was charming and persistent anyway, and that he genuinely liked Gabby was obvious. That said, he got heavy handed at times. When he forbid Gabby to make her meeting, his language was really controlling. She objected to that, and then felt the need to justify her objection by explaining that she had been kidnapped as a teen, and therefore didn't like to be ordered around. As if most grown-up women wouldn't object to being ordered around. Other than that, Gabby isn't bad. Her restaurant performance is every rejected woman's dream come true, and she stands firm when Reed tries to tell her what to do.

There are two aspects of the book that kept me from giving it a qualified recommending. The first is its believability factor. The whole secret agent scenario isn't all that thought out, and both characters' offices do not appear to be grounded in reality in any way. That's probably because the emphasis here is more on sex than on suspense. This isn't the first book to have that issue, and it won't be the last, but it lacks the compelling factor that allows readers to suspend their disbelief.

The other problem (at least for me) is the author's apparent inability to write a paragraph more than three sentences long. While it makes for quick reading, it becomes exhausting over the course of a book, and problematic when page after page of dialogue goes by, all comprised of short sentences and few dialogue tags. Toward the end, I became almost mesmerized by the three sentence rhythm. Da-dum, Da-dum, da-dum. First sentence, second sentence, third sentence. Occasionally, my editor side would kick in and I'd start combining paragraphs that went together well, paragraphs that seemed to be separated only by the author's firm conviction that a paragraph should never have more than three sentences in it. Variety: It's a good thing.

Right Here, Right Now may not be the greatest achievement of all time, but its characters are likeable enough. But to read this one, you'll need to be prepared to suspend your disbelief to very high degree...and beware of the new phenomenon I'll call "short paragraph whiplash."

-- Blythe Barnhill

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