Zebra apparently didnít know what a good thing it had in author Susan Andersen in the mid 1990ís, but it sure knows how to climb on the bandwagon now. Obsessed, a 1993 Zebra release, is appearing on bookstore shelves just a few weeks before the really new Susan Andersen Avon novel, Head Over Heels. Readers who expect anything resembling Andersenís recent romantic comedies are in for a shock - Obsessed is the darkest novel Iíve read by this author, with a creepy suspense plot and a problematic romance.
After the grueling years of medical school, internship and residency, Ivy Pennington is thrilled to finally be a full-fledged trauma physician working in a Seattle hospital emergency room. Her financial prospects look good, so sheís just moved into a new apartment. Sheís in the midst of celebrating her new digs with her rowdy cousins, when an angry knock interrupts their fun. Ivyís new neighbor is tired and pissed. He takes one look at Ivy, whoís holding a bowl of condoms given to her as a gag gift, and immediately assumes sheís a slut. After a terse confrontation, he leaves, and Ivy wonders why such a good looking hunk is such a tight-ass.
Ivy and her neighbor, Vincent DíAmbruzzi, are destined to cross paths again just a few weeks later. DíAmbruzzi is a police detective currently on the case of a vicious serial rapist whose latest victim has arrived at Ivyís hospital. Vincent appears shortly thereafter to investigate. Neither Ivy nor Vincent realize that another player is also at the hospital - the rapist himself, who has followed his victim to make sure she doesnít die (he wants his victims to live so they can suffer emotionally for years to come). The rapist is impressed with Ivyís medical skills and becomes obsessed with the physician, believing that she is the only decent woman in a world full of bitches. As he tries to get closer to her, an oblivious Ivy becomes emotionally involved with Vincent, a tortured hero if there ever was one.
Andersenís heroes tend to be on the tough side, but Vincentís alpha rating is far beyond any of her other male characters, before or since. His short-lived, disastrous marriage to a woman who liked to sleep around has left him unable to trust any other female. Once he and Ivy make love, he responds by becoming increasingly jealous, suspicious and paranoid, and he eventually utters the cruelest remark Iíve ever encountered in a love scene. Right up through page 300 of the novel, he does his best to push Ivy away with his baseless accusations of infidelity, but for some reason Ivy decides she loves him and puts up with his irrational behavior much longer than any intelligent woman should. Vincentís final apology and his avowals of change come far too late to redeem him. Frankly, Iím sick of alleged heroes who think all women are whores because theyíve had one bad relationship. I once dated a blonde-haired, green-eyed guy who broke my heart, but I donít consider all similar guys to be Satanís spawn. Shouldnít any intelligent person judge other people as individuals?
Without a satisfying romance, Obsessed succeeds on its merit as a suspense novel. Fortunately, Andersen knows how to craft a taut page turner. Although the identity of the rapist is revealed fairly early on, the suspense comes from wondering how and when he will finally be able to confront Ivy, the object of his obsession. The climactic scene is disturbingly violent but Ivy proves to be a resourceful, courageous woman, not a helpless victim.
In fact, Ivy is a strong heroine whose smarts, family loyalty and ambition donít explain why she would tolerate Vincentís garbage. I guess she could see the good person behind the emotionally abusive behavior, but any guy who stopped in the middle of lovemaking to demand that I tell him which other man taught me a given move would be thrown out of bed and not given a second chance.
Several romance readers have noted that they enjoyed Andersenís early Zebra releases more than her recent Avon ones. Itís hard to compare Obsessed with novels such as Baby Donít Go and All Shook Up because they are so different. Itís like comparing a Ron Howard movie with one directed by Quentin Tarantino. My recommendation is for you to take a walk on the dark side with Susan Andersen and judge for yourself if youíre glad that sheís lightened up.