Anna Louise Lucia
June 2009, Romantic Suspense
Medallion, $7.95, 363 pages, Amazon ASIN 1934755087 Part of a series
Holy golly Moses. I've never put a publishing company on my auto buy list, but if this is what Medallion is putting out, considering the other recent stellar reviews here at AAR, I might just have to change my mind. Because this was, hands down, the best romantic suspense I've read since Angels Fall. And since Angels Fall is my #1 Romantic Suspense of all time, that makes this book pretty damn good.
Marianne Forster spent the past eight years caring for her ailing father, and following his recent passing, decides to go on a holiday to Morocco where her grandfather used to live. While visiting his old home she sees a man – a golden prince – she'd noticed staying at her hotel, and they strike up a conversation. Alan Waring is a businessman based in North Africa, he says, and he offers to take her around the city. Dazzled by his beauty and taken by his kindness, she accepts, and by the end of their idyll she is in love.
Except Alan Waring isn't a businessman. He's a courier for MI6 (a glorified delivery boy, he calls himself) kicking his heels in Rabat while waiting for further orders regarding the package he carries, when he sees Marianne. Drawn to her strange mixture of maturity, innocence, and loneliness, he can't help falling for her. But since they both sense their affair can come to nothing, Marianne leaves for England after a few days of bliss. Problem is, she mistakenly grabs his carryon – with the package inside – and is kidnapped at the airport. When Alan realizes she is missing, he begins a search across the Sahara for Marianne.
How can I describe all that went right in this book? (And isn't that a pleasure for a change?) Suffice to say that Ms. Lucia doesn't make a single mistake. The settings, ranging from Rabat to the Sahara to Cornwall, demonstrate either extensive research or personal experience, and either way are absolutely impeccable. The main secondary characters are that rare breed: Past and future heroes who add to the story. And although the suspense plot isn't quite as intricate as her character development, there are no dei ex machina and it all falls logically, clearly, and believably. Which is a hell of a lot more than what the vast majority of authors do.
And the main characters! As I progressed through the book I started to get goosebumps - the ones you get when everything has been going swimmingly and you’re on tenterhooks, scared that it will all go to pot and hoping against all hope that it won't. Except that this time, it doesn’t. Yes! Marianne and Alan both change a lot over the course of the book, with such equality of give-and-take and mutual influence that I marvel at the balance Ms. Lucia was able to strike. Marianne is one of the most successful modern innocents I've read because her personal and circumstantial histories are so credible; by the end she has come into her own, and it's terrific to read about. And Alan is charming hero with a tendency to verbosity that masks his reserved core; he comes to grips with his actions and their consequences, and when they finally make it together I heaved a sigh of happiness. Warmfuzzyfeeling.
I requested this book having read about the other recent DIKs from Medallion, and took a chance. By gods, did it pay off. This is a keeper. For good.
-- Jean Wan
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