Garden of Scandal




Clay by Jennifer Blake
(Mira, $6.50, PG) ISBN 1-55166-819-X
When Janna Kerr wants a manís body she doesnít fool around. She hog-ties Clay Benedict and takes him to her isolated hiding place in the Louisiana swamps. Of course she only really wants one part of that big male body - a kidney. Clay is a member of a wealthy and powerful family in the area and is also Lainey Kerrís best hope for a healthy life. Lainey is Jannaís and Matt Benedictís daughter. Matt died before he could marry Janna but Clay, Mattís twin brother, is still around.

The author gets points for trying out an interesting idea - what happens when a desperate mother will do anything to save her slowly dying daughter? Unfortunately those are the only points allowed for the author here. Would any man, no matter how kinky he might be, get tied up and held captive, realize there is murder and lying going on all around him, and then fall in love with the person who got him involved in this mess?

Janna isnít even an attractive heroine - or at least her mental processes arenít. To get into this situation and continue this plot, Janna has to be an idiot. Her daughter is dying and Janna will do everything possible to save her. Everything here includes taking up with a very odd doctor and hiding in the swamps to get a black market kidney. But why not get really wild and ask help from the relative who is her daughterís closest possible biological match? If he says no, you could always kidnap him later. If he isnít a suitable transplant donor why not ask everyone in the Benedict family? There are oodles of relatives. Granted Janna got a cold reception from one member of the family but what does Janna have to lose by trying again? Weíll never know, since Janna doesnít try the logical solution.

Instead she makes the most half-hearted bungled attempt at capturing a potential donor imaginable. Next she canít guess this doctor who keeps demanding money from her might possibly be connected to some mystery deaths where organs get cut out of the corpses. Someone that worried about her daughterís health ought to be checking out this doctor a lot more carefully.

The romance between the hero and heroine is equally half-hearted and half-witted. Even if a reader could believe Clay falls in love with Janna (yeah, right), the romance seems to be shoved in rather than happening naturally. Jannaís predominant emotion is always worry. She worries about her daughter. Periodically she worries about what a bad idea her plan is. Other times she worries that Clay has sinister designs on her or her daughter. Then, out of the blue, the hero and heroine will get flashes of lust. These lust flashes never really consummate themselves properly before someone interrupts.

Clay has the potential for a good romantic suspense but it remains a distant possibility. The suspense isnít thought out carefully enough to be realistic and the romance isnít hot and heavy enough to justify the heroís attraction. Try another book for a late summer read.

--Irene Williams

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