Dying To Meet You
by Jennifer Apodaca
(Kensington, $22.00, PG) ISBN 0-7582-0074-9
Samantha Shaw, romance book reviewer, dating service proprietor, and sexy single mother is back in Apodaca’s second installment in her amusingly sassy series.

Sam has hired an ex-client, Faye Miller, to design a new brochure for her dating service, Heart Mates. However when she shows up for their breakfast meeting at Faye’s motel room, Sam finds her dead - lying face down on her computer keyboard. Not a good way to start the day, especially when the new police detective in town appears on the scene and takes an instant dislike to Sam.

Sam honestly wants to stay out of the whole mess, except for two things. Faye was clutching a Heart Mates brochure in her hand and Faye’s husband begs Sam for help. Adam is a nice guy, just a socially inept computer geek. Since he and Faye were technically separated and she was dating other men - Adam fears the police are going to pin her murder on him. When the newspapers start linking Faye’s death to Heart Mates, Sam goes into action - not only to protect an innocent man, but to save her struggling business as well.

Samantha is a very interesting character in that it’s very hard to pigeonhole her into a cliché. She has her fair share of bubble-headed moments, and has a wardrobe that would make a 16-year-old blush. On the other hand she is a resourceful, smart woman who knows how to defend herself when cornered. She’s also a romance book reviewer (what’s not to love about that?) and a loving, protective mother. Since the betrayal of her dead husband, she is still leery around men - including the man who may or may not be in her life, ex-cop now private eye Gabe Pulizzi. The sparks these two set off make the stuff of Sam’s romance novels seem like banked embers.

The mystery is top shelf, with the author providing several different suspects and motives. Sam was just getting to really know Faye before her death and finds she is learning even more as her informal investigation wears on. The more she uncovers, the more suspects emerge, keeping this reader guessing right up until the climatic finish.

The author does tip her hand very early on in this book regarding the first book in the series, Dating Can Be Murder. If you are a reader who is fanatical about reading a series in order, consider yourself warned. Newcomers who want to jump right in won’t be lost in the least, as Apodaca’s appealing first person narrative catches one up to speed rather quickly.

With a strong second effort under her belt, Jennifer Apodaca seems to have found her niche. There aren’t a whole lot of sexy female leads in cozy mysteries - making Samantha Shaw a welcome addition to the crowded market place. Likewise, romance readers will enjoy Sam’s defense of the genre, hunky Gabe and the sexual tension that he sets off with Sam. With steam aplenty, amusing moments, and a solid mystery, readers will be dying to get their hands on this one.

--Wendy Crutcher

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