Perfect Timing

Risky Games

Heat of the Moment by Olga Bicos
(Zebra, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-6941-3
Heat of the Moment is the sequel Perfect Timing which was awarded 5-heart keeper status by a fellow reviewer. Readers who enjoyed that book and have been looking forward to a sequel are likely to be disappointed.

There’s much to dislike in Heat of the Moment: understanding what’s going on requires extensive knowledge of plot and characters from the previous book, and the story line is very convoluted. My biggest objection, however, is to the characters. I believe that most romance readers would prefer to read about characters they can like. Among the several main characters, there’s only one who comes close to likeable. These characters more properly belong in Lifestyles of the Rich and Venal; they don’t deserve a happily ever after.

Sydney Shanks is twice-married and now engaged to Jackson Bosse. She and Jack are in the process of establishing an art gallery designed for children. Sydney’s two husbands were millionaire business partners. She cheated on her first husband Henry Shanks with her second husband Russell Reck. She’s beautiful and, thanks to the divorce settlement with Russell, rich. She’s determined that now that Russell’s out of the slammer he won’t get back any of the dough in order to pay reparations to the government. Of course, she’s using some of it to bring culture to kiddies so you really shouldn’t call her covetous.

Jackson Bosse is yet another millionaire and a beta male. He wants to marry Sydney because he’s decided it’s time to settle down, and Sydney senses her biological clock is ticking so she’s willing. He seems comfortable with letting everyone walk all over him, particularly Sydney. He cries. He’s way out of his league with this self-serving, unscrupulous crew.

Alec Porter, an alpha male in the worst sense, is Sydney’s former lover. (Yes, another one.) He was her bodyguard, and they had a sexual relationship prior to this book. Now Alec’s back, trying to break up Sydney and Jack as well as bring down Russell in order to protect her. He’s loaded with psychological angst from a lousy childhood and his betrayal of his best friend and adoptive brother. Furthermore, he did something really bad Sydney doesn’t know about, and if she finds out, she’ll reject him completely. But he’s a stud and you’ve got to feel sympathy for the jerk in light of that lousy childhood.

Russell Reck is villainous through and through. Prior to this book, he was involved in criminal activity; Sydney provided some of the evidence that led to his conviction and prison sentence. Now he’s out of prison again, and he doesn’t believe in forgive and forget. He intends to make Sydney pay, and he’s not above using anyone and anything to achieve his evil ends. This guy’s rotten to the core with no mitigating factors.

Petroula (Rocky) Reck is Russell’s youngest daughter, and the only one who lived with Russell and her stepmother Sydney (whom she calls the ‘stepmonster’). Rocky is now in law school and is working at the gallery during her summer break. She was neglected for years by her father and her absentee mother. It was only during prison visits that Rocky established a relationship with Russell. She’s bitter towards everyone and yearns to punish Sydney by any means including spying for her father. Her words and behavior are often completely irrational and even incomprehensible. But since all she ever wanted was for Daddy to love her, that apparently excuses a lack of rationality.

The publisher is marketing Heat of the Moment as romantic suspense. I usually think of romantic as meaning nice people finding love - that description hardly fits this book. But there is a little suspense: it’s in wondering when Jackson Bosse is going to wise up, turn his back on this crowd, and go find some nice friends.

Those readers who enjoyed the first book may want to check out the sequel, but other readers will be well advised to give this one a pass.

--Lesley Dunlap

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