Mandy Newman is an attorney and single mom in Tampa, FL. She’s on her way home from the office one day when a stranger in a pickup truck starts riding her bumper. At first Mandy thinks he’s just a jerk—but then he hits her car, forcing her off a bridge and into the bay. This all happens in the first chapter—an intense opening that grabbed me immediately. Sinking deeper into the dark, cold water, Mandy struggles to free herself from her car and get to the surface, and the reader is treated to the first glimpse of her character:
“She would not shut down. Or break. She would not quit. Gabby [her daughter] needed her. Besides, she hadn’t scheduled dying into her day planner. And no way in hell was she letting that SOB get away with murder…” (Kearney 10).
Right then I knew I liked Mandy. She’s tough and no nonsense. She works hard to provide a good life for one-year-old Gabby, and she’s proud of her work as an attorney. She’s not about to panic and wait for a white knight to come to her rescue.
Mandy escapes from the car and makes it to shore. The police aren’t sure if the attack was an accident or if Mandy was targeted. She handles many divorces, and the list of people who might want her dead is fairly long. Her coworker and best friend, Dana Hansen, wants Mandy to get a bodyguard. It isn’t unheard of; Dana’s brother, DEA agent Zack Taylor had acted as Mandy’s bodyguard a little under two years ago when she began receiving death threats related to a case.
If you’re doing the math here—Gabby is about a year old, Zack was, um, protecting Mandy’s body a little under two years ago—you’re right. Zack is the baby daddy, but he doesn’t know it.
Zack and Mandy had a fling, but he made it clear that his job was dangerous and demanding, and he had no intention of settling down or having kids. When Mandy found out she was pregnant, Zack was in California, deep undercover on a case. She knows she should have told Zack about their daughter, but Mandy’s own father walked out, and she has some issues about men who aren’t interested in their kids. She figures Gabby will be better off not knowing her dad than finding out Zack has no desire to be her parent.
Mandy says no to a bodyguard and is willing to write off the whole incident as an accident. Then we get a twist. Every week the women at Mandy’s law firm buy a Powerball ticket together using the same numbers. This week the women win big–$60 million each big. It’s shortly after they win that Mandy and Dana are attacked in the airport parking garage, and a paralegal, who was also in on the ticket, is brutally stabbed to death.
Suddenly a bodyguard sounds like a pretty good idea. Zack flies in after his sister is attacked. He arranges protection for all the women, and takes Mandy’s case himself. He fondly remembers their week together, and when he sees Mandy in person he realizes how attracted to her he still is. He’s also intensely protective of her and is concerned for her life. Zack is working through his own issues. He was undercover on a case where a child died, and he still feels responsible. He finds spending time with Mandy a healing, relaxing experience.
As the book progresses, the stakes get higher. Someone is stalking the women, threatening them from the shadows. Mandy and Zack work together to find out who the killer is and why they are being targeted. It could be the winning lottery ticket or, since the women worked cases together, a disgruntled ex-husband or wife of one of their clients.
Adding to that tension is the drama surrounding Gabby’s parentage. Zack blames himself for the death of a little boy, and when Mandy reveals Gabby is his daughter, he feels completely unprepared to deal with it.
It’s okay, though, we know they’ll work it out; Zack and Mandy are destined to be together. How do I know this?
Dangerboner (thanks to SB Sarah for the name). [SBSarah: You're welcome.]
What is Dangerboner you ask? It’s when bullets are flying, grenades are being launched, the building is on fire, and at this exact inopportune moment, the romantic suspense hero suddenly notices the heroine’s hair smells like vanilla (cinnamon, sunlight on a June day, pick a cliché) and pops wood.
Yes, he’s so in love (even though he doesn’t know it yet) that his body responds even though they are about to die. In Zack’s case the building is on fire, a killer is creeping around the house, and he’s lying on top of Mandy to shield her from the impending bullets. Then—whoa hello:
“Zack’s body was primed for sex. And a damn killer was in the house.” (Kearney 143).
Dangerboner is a sure sign the hero is in true love with the heroine. He may not know it yet, but his penis sure does. It’s so prevalent in romantic suspense that you’d think Navy SEALS, CIA agents, FBI agents, and homicide detectives would all be given the same pamphlet on day one: “Dangerboner and You: Don’t Fire the Wrong Weapon.”
The whole thing is ridiculous and hilarious, and I love it.
The mystery portion of this book was really well done. There were plenty of suspects and red herrings along the way, and I learned that in FL as long as you are in possession of a winning lottery ticket you get the cash—even if you just pried it out of some dead guy’s hand.
I thought the romance in the book was pretty solid (Mandy and Zack have some real issues to work though) until I came to the sex scenes. Now, I’m a fan of sex scenes. I’m not one of those readers who skims over them. To me they are like the prize at the bottom of a box of marshmallow sugar crunchies cereal. The sex in this book was just…weird.
Mandy and Zack clearly have some unresolved sexual tension going on. When they finally get around to resolving it I was a little surprised at how involved the sex was. I kind of expected a romp on the beach (because in Romancelandia no one gets sand in their hoosey), but instead I got White Flower Oil, cocoa butter, and a garden hose.
I think it was supposed to be erotic, but the book really wasn’t that erotically charged, so it felt off, shoe-horned in. Also I’m a little leery whenever the main characters stop their heavy petting so one of them can run off and grab props.
Also there was subplot with one of the lawyers, Maria, and her new, mysterious (perhaps dangerous) boyfriend, Ray. When Ray and Maria get together I was sort of taken by surprise. It read like this: romantic suspense, romantic suspense, romantic suspense, kinky fetish bondage dungeon—whoa, WTF?
Was not expecting that in this book. Also I learned what a latex “quiet table” is. After much internet searching (and phone calls to girlfriends saying “have you heard of this shit?!”) I think it’s a latex vacuum table. DO NOT GOOGLE THAT AT WORK.
I am more than fine with reading about kinky sex—bring it!–it just really did not fit with the tone of the rest of the book (also that would be a really shitty time to find out you have a latex allergy). So basically, if your grandma likes romantic suspense, maybe don’t buy Kiss Me Deadly for her. Unless your grandma is badass and likes naughty, slappy sex. In that case, get down with your bad self, Nana!
Kiss Me Deadly worked for me mostly. I could have done without the erotic sex shoved in there (ha!) for no real reason. Other than that, the heroine was likeable and the mystery kept me guessing.