Beverly Barton has written many fine romantic suspense stories, and it is a disappointment that this one is not up to her usual standards. Barton’s recipe for previous successes has been the total integration of romance in a setting of mystery and tension. In Her Secret Weapon, the romance is steamy enough, but the mystery, which is driving “The Year of Loving Dangerously” series, is poorly treated and instead of being integrated into the story merely intersects it on occasion.
Callie Severin, the daughter of a diplomat living in London, was shattered one day when her employer and fiancé told her he was going to marry someone else. She quit her job and ran to find her cousin Enid’s shoulder to cry upon. Instead she found Burke Lonigan drowning his sorrows at a bar. His sorrows were related to the death of his father and his exclusion from the family because he is the illegitimate son.
Immediately attracted, Callie abandoned her search for Enid and had a drink with Burke and then a night of incomparable lust which she romanticized. A comforting way to approach it, since she departed early morning without telling him her name, and nine months later, their son Seamus was born.
Happily, Enid has been able to support Callie until she can return to the work force, and we join the story after she has been employed as Lonigans’s personal assistant for a couple months. Lonigan owns a huge import-export business, and word has it that it is a front for illegal arms trading. Callie had sought employment there because she wanted to see what type a man Burke truly is before she decides to tell him that he has a son. It is not particularly to his credit that he does not recognize her when he hires her.
However, the more Callie works for Burke, the better she likes him. Since she is already in love with him, this places her in a vulnerable position. But the more she sees him, the more she realizes that he does have a secret life related to arm sales. She spends almost the entire book agonizing about whether or not Burke is the type of man to be the father she wants for her son.
Meanwhile Burke is still mystically attracted to the woman of the infamous one-night stand but can’t remember her face, and is mystified, and certain that he has some type of mental block. However, he is fast falling for Callie.
To me, these are very simple concepts; the dilemma is obvious. What I do not understand is why the author found it necessary to state, and restate these dilemmas time and time and time again in the novel. Very little happens except for Callie or Burke thinking and rethinking their problems. This is mostly done without the benefit of any dialogue.
The infamous villain Simon appears one night in Burke’s office to purchase the weapons he was trying to acquire in the prior novel by Eileen Wilks (The Night of No Return). Callie stumbles in on them and in a very contrived scene, Burke passes her off as his fiancée, and Simon agrees that if he indeed marries her, then it will not be necessary to kill her.
Callie has to agree and this brings a renewal of doubts and angst. So much time is spent agonizing about their respective problems, that it leaves little space for plot development. Instead of characters slowly acquiring knowledge, meager as it is, gradually through dialogue or action, suddenly their awareness jumps a level or two at odd times.
Dialogue is sparse, inner tension is omnipresent, and the action is limited. This is not a good formula for character development or a credible story line. In fairness to the author, the sexual tension matches the inner tension of the characters, and if that is all you require in a novel, then it is an acceptable read. If you are into the series, then you will be merely treading water for one month.