Manhunting in Manhattan
by Carolyn Andrews
(Harlequin Temptation #673, $3.75, PG)
ISBN 0-373-25773-2
****
Manhunting in Manhattan is the second of five 'Manhunting' books. The premise of all five books is, She's got a plan--to find herself a man. I'd like to commend whoever came up with this premise. It's clever and thus far has been well-executed. The remaining books in this alliteratively titled series are Manhunting in Montana #677, Manhunting in Miami #681 and ending with Manhunting in Mississippi #685. The series has five different authors, so I can't be sure that the quality will continue. My experiences with book one and two have been completely satisfactory, so a good trend has begun.

Carly Carpenter has been doing anthropology field work for two years and has returned to Manhattan for her younger sister's wedding. She's in for a surprise instead of a wedding. Her sister wants to elope with another man and give the groom to Carly. Seems that Carly's dad's business empire may collapse without the marriage/merger. So Carly helps with the elopement plans, takes a deep breath and proposes to the groom.

Holt Cassidy knows that his marriage would have been more of a business deal than a love match. When he finds out that his bride has eloped, he's not that emotionally committed to her to feel heartbroken. Reminds me of dropping a chocolate ice cream cone. It's no big loss if you don't like chocolate ice cream in the first place. Holt is surprised that he's attracted to Carly, but he can't deny it. He's also unsure of what to do with Carly and her proposal.

Almost immediately a twist occurs which is absorbing and isn't resolved until the end. Carly's father receives a ransom notice explaining that his younger daughter has been kidnapped. Is it real or is she on her honeymoon, safe and sound? If it's a hoax, then there's a company spy. Who?

Holt, Carly and her father do know that mischief is afoot. There have already been three attempts on Carly's life. The kidnapper knows that if a wedding does take place as scheduled, even with an ersatz bride, then the business merger is accomplished. That business merger will allow the company to thrive, an outcome the kidnapper wants to prevent.

Holt is one of those alpha heroes who becomes more civilized before our very eyes. It's gradual, but oh-so rewarding. Carly, whose intelligence is never in question, uses logical arguments to persuade Holt to let her help solve the mystery. They devise a personal plan that allows them to work together. They alternate decisions. This works because both know that if Carly's life is threatened, she'll defer to Holt.

Holt is attracted to Carly's duality. He sees her as incredibly intelligent and incredibly innocent. This combination is intriguing and arousing. Carly sees a man who by circumstances and now by choice is a loner. While early betrayals have colored his life, he's not warped beyond repair. Carly's awareness of his attitude is one of the many well-done plot lines of this story. The author gives us a limited amount of Holt's point of view, thus making him seem remote and enigmatic.

Until the final few pages of the story, I was enjoying the romantic twists and turns. I don't know if the ending was jarring because it was unexpected or because I couldn't believe how the mystery was tied up. I just know that when credit and blame were assessed, I didn't like the outcome.

A source of gentle humor through the book is Carly's use of note cards. She's comfortable when she's written down major points and can enter a situation being prepared. It's like our grocery list, only on a larger scale. Holt teases her about her lists, and when he finally uses one of his own, it enhances a tender moment.

The first Manhunting book was lighter in tone, more carefree. This one is more intense, with the mystery element pervading the story. Both were successful and set standards for books three, four and five to achieve. My money's on them.

--Linda Mowery


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