Garden of Scandal



Roan by Jennifer Blake
(Mira, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN 1-55166-630-8
If you can suspend the plausibility factor of a princess and a small town cop successfully coming together and staying that way, you'll have a good time reading Roan, the third book in Jennifer Blake's Turn-Coute series.

Victoria Molina-Vandergraff, an American-raised pampered socialite of noble Italian birth (who thankfully encompasses none of the weak, haughty, or ditzy attributes such a description conjures up) is kidnapped by two thugs from her Florida home. The kidnappers decide to hold up a convenience store while passing through Turn-Coute, Louisiana, thinking it will be easy to get away with robbery in a backwater little bayou town.

Sheriff Roan Benedict proves otherwise. During the police chase, Victoria, or Tori as she goes by, manages to grab the gun of one of her kidnappers and jump out of the vehicle in which she is being held hostage. Unfortunately, it is also late at night and visibility is low, so Tori soon finds herself on an ambulance stretcher headed for the hospital after Roan shoots her in the arm, thinking she's one of the bad guys...

Roan Benedict doesn't know what to make of the gorgeous, female prisoner he shot, an act he feels bad enough about as it is. She had a gun trained on him when she alighted from the van and the surveillance equipment in the convenience store showed her as being a part of the robbery. But how willing was she? Can her kidnapping story be believed or is she an integral part of the conspiracy? And now, on top of everything else, she's claiming amnesia. Whatever the case may be, it soon becomes clear that someone is trying to kill her. Roan decides that the best way to protect his prisoner is to keep her by his side, so when she is released from the local hospital he puts her on house arrest, in his house...

Why, oh why, can't we all get placed under house arrest by hunky alpha men like Roan Benedict? If this story had happened anywhere but in a romance novel, the arresting officer would have looked more like Danny Devito than the hardbodied, blonde-haired, grey-eyed sheriff who is the hero (and title) of Roan. Physical attributes aside, Sheriff Roan Benedict is still the stuff that true romantic heroes are made of...emotionally sturdy, dependable to all who need him, and he has eyes only for the heroine. Fortunately for readers, Ms. Blake has written a heroine worthy of him. Both of the story's protagonists are people we can empathize with, understand, and come to care about.

Aside from the well-penned leading characters, another thing this novel has going for it is its level of intrigue: it grabs your attention from the beginning and does a good job of keeping it. From the suspense angle of "who's trying to kill Tori" to the sexual chemistry between the hero and heroine, I never once got bored. The dialogue was witty and often times humorous, and the secondary characters were just as fun to read about.

The only aspect of the novel that could have been better concerns the sometimes too-lengthy descriptions of the scenery. To put a fine point on it, the rooms in Roan's antebellum home were painstakingly detailed...too painstakingly detailed. Still, if that's the worst that can be said about a book (nothing a little paragraph scanning can't cure!) then it's still a wonderful read. Roan definitely falls into this category.

Lastly, here's an FYI for Jennifer Blake fans: although Roan was expected to be the last book of the author's Turn-Coupe trilogy, she has decided after the success of book one (Kane) and book two (Luke) to extend it to an unknown number of novels, which are now appropriately titled the Louisiana Gentlemen series. Keep your eyes out for Clay Benedict's story next.

--Tina Engler

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