Elizabeth Jennings
April 2008, Romantic Suspense
Hachette, $6.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0446618918

Grade: B
Sensuality: Hot

It’s no big secret that Elizabeth Jennings is Lisa Marie Rice. Pursuit is her first book under this pen name and it’s a good one – a very good one. As good as it is, though, it falls short when it comes to the book's hero, Matt Sanders.

Robert Haine is the CEO of Court Industries, a small family-owned company that he rescued from the brink of bankruptcy. Haine is poised to pitch the Proteus Project to the Pentagon, a project that could net the company billions, but Philip Court and his daughter Charlotte will not sign off on it.

Haine is furious. He’s rich, but he wants to be Warren Buffett rich and looks upon the Courts with contempt for their unworldly ways. Haine loathes Charlotte, who refused his offer of marriage, so he sends a hired goon to kill Philip (who is in the hospital with cancer) and make it look like Charlotte was the murderer. The goon botches the job, and Charlotte gets away with a bullet wound to her shoulder. Haine is sure that the delicate and frail Charlotte will be caught very soon, but she turns out to be made of stronger stuff.

Charlotte makes it across the border to San Luis in Baja, and settles down to recover from her wound. While there, she meets Matt Sanders, a Navy SEAL who was badly wounded in Afghanistan and who has come to San Luis, where a buddy of his has a small business. Matt sees Charlotte watching him as he slowly regains strength and thinks of her as his Angel – the one who gives him the confidence to push himself toward full recovery. After he rescues her from a fall into the ocean, Matt sees that his angel has a scarred wing and he wonders what happened. She isn’t inclined to tell him, but soon she might have to. Haine does not want to leave any loose ends around and he hires Barrett, a tracker/sniper who is the best in the business, to find and eliminate Charlotte.

The book moves quickly and I was not inclined to lay it down at any time while reading it. I liked Charlotte and I thought that Jennings did a very good job of bringing her to life. If only she had done as good a job with Matt. Unlike Jack Prescott from Dangerous Lover, or Douglas Kowalski from Midnight Angel, Matt had little back story and that made him seem underdeveloped as a character. Even Haine and Barrett were given more background than Matt. Don’t get me wrong – Matt is a wonderful, protective, yummy alpha male, but I kept wondering what made him tick.

Robert Haine and Barrett were both very well developed characters and good villains. Haine is not evil just to be evil. He came from a wretchedly poor background and all his success is not enough to fill the void he has within. There were times when I almost (just almost) felt sorry for him...until he killed Charlotte’s pet. That put him beyond the pale. Barrett is another good villain and might have been redeemable. He does what he does for money and out of warped pride since he is a very good sniper, but in the end Barrett proves to be too soul-less to be saved.

Pursuit is a good read, but its lack of character development for Matt kept it from being a great one. Even so, the book still has a fast plot - and the rest of the characters are great. There are hints that Tom Reich, a character we meet late in the book, may show up in another story. I will be sure to read it. In the end, this is still a fast and enjoyable romantic suspense, and I was able to overlook my small problems with it.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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