Loose and Easy

Tara Janzen
2008, Romantic Suspense
Dell, $6.99, 416 pages, Amazon ASIN 0440244692
Part of a series

Grade: B
Sensuality: Warm

Loose and Easy is tied to Tara Janzenís Steele Street series. Readers who have more closely followed the series will get a lot more out of it than I did, but it was a fun and fast reading experience for me, and I've only read one - Crazy Wild - of the Crazy books.

Johnny Ramos is back from Afghanistan, just hanging out when he sees a hooker, and not just any hooker. The girl in the itty bitty miniskirt is Esmee Alden whom he used to call Easy Alden back in high school (Easy because she wasnít). So what in the world is Esmee, the good girl valedictorian, doing hooking?

Well, she isnít. Esmee is a private investigator working with her father. Mr. Alden has a genius for art recovery and a weakness for getting in over his head gambling. Her father is in hock to a very bad man named Frankly Bleak. Esmee is pretending to be a hooker so she can get close to a German client with a penchant for being tied up. Once restrained, she plans to relieve him of a valuable painting he stole, and give it over to Bleak to cancel her father's debt.

Simple.

Not at all. Esmee leaves the German tied to the bed in a dog collar and leather thong, then with painting in hand, goes to get in her fatherís van to deliver it, only to find the van has been booted. So Johnny comes to the rescue. He and Esmee made it to a couple of bases in high school in the back seat of Johnny's Charger, and theyíve never really forgotten each other. Esmee is quite capable, but a girl can always use some extra help when really bad guys are chasing after her with mayhem in mind.

The plot of Loose and Easy moves as fast as Johnnyís beloved 1968 Mercury Cyclone GT (named Solange). Characters both good and bad jump out of every street and alley way and all I can say is that itís a good thing Solange is so fast since Johnny and Esmee need all the speed they can get. Iíve heard many a book described as a thrill ride, but this really is one.

While Johnny and Esmee are great characters, I think the star of this book is the setting. Itís Denver but not quite the Denver thatís the city in Colorado. This is an other Denver Ė a magical realism Denver if you will. The setting has a slightly off-kilter and unreal quality about it that is unusual and very intriguing. I would love to see a good writer and director get their hands on this book and film it. I think it would make a great movie.

Some day I am going to have to go back and read the rest of Tara Janzenís books. She is a writer with a unique style and voice of her own. Sheís not quite an urban fantasist - I would call her an urban magic realist. No matter what you call her, sheís an author I can recommend.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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