The Law of Desire

Gwyneth Bolton
December 2008, Series Romance
Harlequin Kimani, $5.99, 256 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373860943
Part of a series

Grade: B
Sensuality: Hot

The Law of Desire is the third installment to Bolton’s Hightower series featuring four servicemen brothers. Lawrence Hightower is a narcotics policeman who keeps his finger on the pulse of drug-related crime in his town of Paterson, New Jersey. When he sees a hoochie-mama dressed woman in a bar fraternizing with petty criminals, he wants to know who’s the newbie on his turf. Treating her as a probable source of trouble, he puts on his bad cop face and warns her to toe the legal line or else. As he gets to know the woman better however (through following her wherever she the course of duty), he becomes intrigued by the differences in her dress and her speech and of course, the physical attraction is almost immediate.

Minerva Athena Jones, a Californian native and soon-to-be degree holder and social worker, is in hiding in New Jersey. She discovers the body of her murdered brother at his apartment while the killers are still there, and when she flees for safety into the arms of her brother’s best friend he implores her to evade the murderers by going farther afield and underground. By evading the murderers she’s also evading the police, but when you’re in shock and your brother has had ties with a gang, you do crazy things in the name of self preservation. Lawrence won’t let her hide in peace, however. As if her ridiculous get-up wasn’t enough humiliation, she’s being trailed by a gruff cop. A handsome gruff cop, but still.

When the murderers track her cross country and attempt to kidnap her, Lawrence, being a dutiful stalker, is there to save her, and soon they are headed to his family vacation home in the Poconos to lay even lower. Obviously this isn’t standard victim, witness and/or possible suspect treatment, but Minerva has long since aroused those protective tendencies in him. Also, the force is headed by a Hightower uncle who gives him some leeway in procedure.

I really liked these two characters. Minerva’s decision to run was stupid when looked at with a cold eye, but in her position I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done the same – just run crazy when the world itself seems to have gone crazy. Lawrence, in all his surliness and against her better judgment, becomes her rock for the time they are tucked away, but I enjoyed the fact that neither of them ever forgot why they were there and the missing truth that stood between them. Yes, the retreat to the house allows Bolton to develop their romance without outside interference, but they don’t jump into bed as soon as the door closes behind them. Even when they do take that step, it’s at a believable juncture and doesn’t whisk away their problems.

Lawrence is very logical and realistic, and I appreciated this particularly because of his profession. Minerva shows great strength in many actions after her flight to New Jersey, even as her world is crashing down around her. She accepts from Lawrence only what she feels comfortable taking, and though Bolton could have easily made her into the submissive partner of their relationship, she is shown to be capable of independence and the source of her own logical thinking (with and without Lawrence as her temporary rock of stability).

A common thread through the novels has been secondary characters Sophie Hightower (an obnoxious aunt) and a past heroine’s mother, Carla. Carla is delightfully on form, dishing out quips and laughs every time she opens her mouth, and Sophie’s back story continues to be developed, giving us a peek at the human before she turned beast. I think Bolton will arrive at some sort of resolution between Sophie and the men’s mother. They used to be good friends before she had the audacity to marry Sophie’s brother. We also see a light romance developing between two family friends that I am interested in reading but don’t know if there are plans for them to have their own story.

The issue I had that prevented a higher grade was that once Minerva flees, we don’t read about what happens with her job, her school or her friends. We know that due to her hectic work and school life she has not made any new friends and she has almost lost touch with her old ones, but after hearing about them in the opening chapter – including a mentor that she has – she doesn’t even think of them. In addition, the Hightower family is huge and, in this much at least, the novel is pretty much standard romance fare as all the women hit it off well and seem destined to be best buddies. That would make Hightower in-laws and the Hightower family itself her new and only friends. This seemed both trite and sad to me. Minerva Jones, with her brother killed and California far away, seems to be no more. She’s subsumed under the Hightower banner, but I would have liked her to retain more of her old life, be it through friends or at least open acknowledgment of some of the things she would miss leaving behind.

Despite that, I really enjoyed The Law of Desire. I read it in one sitting and even forgot to make critiquing notes, it flowed that well. The whodunit mystery portion of the book was obvious from the get-go, but this did not affect my enjoyment because the focus wasn't on the mystery anyway. It’s very much a straight contemporary with a dash of action thrown in.

-- Abi Bishop

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