Dangerous Secrets

Lisa Marie Rice
2008, Erotic Romance
Avon, $13.95, 344 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061208604

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Burning

Dangerous Secrets is Lisa Marie Riceís latest book. If you've read any of her previous books, you know what to expect Ė an ultra-masculine hero who is touched to his core by love, and a heroine who is strong, intelligent, and feminine to her fingertips. Add some danger, lots of love scenes, and you have a potent mix. Itís one I love.

The small town of Parkerís Ridge, Vermont, is home to a celebrity - Vassily Worontzoff. Vassily is a poet, a survivor of the Gulag, and the author of the book Dry Your Tears in Moscow, a novel that is considered a classic. Vassily is on the short list for the Nobel Prize; he is weathly, cultured, and courtly, and librarian Charity Prewitt is honored to call him her friend. To her, he is like a mentor, teacher, and grandfather all in one.

There arenít too many eligible men in Parkerís Ridge and Charity hasnít had a date in some time. She is surprised and pleased when Nick Ames asks her out. Nick is a retired stockbroker, handsome, magnetic, and polite. Charity is irresistibly drawn to Nick, and when he makes it clear that he wants an affair, she agrees since she wants him just as much as he wants her.

A simple story, right? No, things are not at all what they seem. Yes, Vassily is a renowned author, but he is also a leader in the Russian Mafia whose latest scheme involves selling nuclear material to al-Qaeda. Vassily is kind to Charity but he is also obsessed with her since she is almost a twin of Katya, the woman he loved and lost to the horrors of the Gulag.

Nick Ames is actually Nick Ireland, a former Delta Force member now in a top secret branch of Homeland Security. Nickís unit has gotten wind of Vassilyís plans, and they know about his obsession with Charity. Nick (known as the Iceman for his lack of emotion) plans to get close to Charity and use her to get access to Vassily, but as Nick draws closer to Charity, the Iceman finds that his cold, cold heart is fast thawing.

Sigh. I melted into a puddle as I read this book. No one, but no one can depict the Łber alpha male who is softened and humbled by love like Lisa Marie Rice. No alpha jerks for her Ė her heroes have a protective streak a mile long and deep as a well. When Nick was a boy growing up in an orphanage, he took Jake, a fellow orphan who was small and crippled, under his wing. Jake turned out to be a financial whiz who made Nick very rich. His protective streak is still a strong part of his personality and there is nothing that he hates more than cruelty to innocents. Eventually Nickís feelings for Charity outweigh his loyalty to his group and he questions the plan to use her to trap Vassily, but when the final confrontation looms, Charity proves stronger than she appears.

Charity is a quiet, pretty woman who put her dreams on hold in order to take care of her aunt and uncle, who raised her after her parents were killed in a fire. She looks delicate but she isnít a bit insipid. When she finds out the truth about Vassily, she doesnít stubbornly stick out her delicate jaw and deny it all (a heroine clichť I canít stand) Ė instead she asks how she can help and willingly puts herself in harmís way.

As in any Lisa Marie Rice novel, the love scenes are plentiful and burning hot. Iíve often found myself skipping love scenes in other erotic novels since, frankly I find them boring. Too often the characters some erotic novels are just animated puzzle pieces which the author tries to combine in as many positions as she can, but Rice uses her love scenes to chart the course of the coupleís emotions, especially the heroís. Nick initially plans to keep it all on the surface - heís the Iceman, heís done this many times with no problem. However, his relationship with Charity turns out to be more than he expected and he falls deeply in love. And it scares him to death.

Lisa Marie Rice is now firmly ensconced as my favorite erotic romance writer. Her love scenes are deeply satisfying (and I would never dream of skipping one), I love her characters and her plots have enough action to keep me happily turning the pages. As long as she keeps writing, Iíll keep reading.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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