Every so often, I read a romance with a title that is absolutely perfect for the story; Obsession is just such an instance. Everyone in Kay David's story is obsessed. Raul Santos is obsessed with getting revenge on the crooked D.E.A. agent who framed him and sent him to jail, Emma Toussaint is obsessed with getting her children back from her ex-husband, and pretty soon…you guessed it…they are obsessed with each other.
Raul Santos was an up-and-coming young lawyer, practicing in Washington, D.C., when he picked up William Kelman's live-in lady at a bar. When Kelman found out about the one-night-stand, he used his contacts as a D.E.A. agent to set Raul up by planting drugs and a gun in his car. Under automatic sentencing guidelines, Raul lost his license to practice law and went to jail for five years.
While Raul was in jail, Kelman left the D.E.A., taking considerable ill-gotten gains with him, and went to Bolivia where he has a scheme to make even more money. If he can find out where the Bolivian government is going to price the boliviano (the Bolivian currency) against the dollar before the price is released to the public, he can make a killing by either buying or selling bolivianos. To get this illegal insider information, he needs to blackmail a banker into stealing the information for him.
Emma Toussaint works for Banco Nacional, and she is vulnerable to blackmail. She hasn't seen her 2½ year-old-daughter or her 7 year-old son in over two years. That's when the divorce court awarded custody of her children to their father, without any visitation rights for Emma. The reason: after an automobile accident Emma became addicted to, first, painkillers; then, alcohol. Emma has since conquered her addiction, but without money and influence she has no hope of challenging the custody decision.
Emma's wealthy husband, not content with forbidding her to see her children, blackballed her in the New Orleans business community. Hence Emma's need to take the job with El Banco as vice president of expatriate accounts. She is desperately saving every extra penny so that she can go back to New Orleans and hire the "meanest, toughest lawyer" in New Orleans to get her children back.
All three of the main characters - Raul Santos, Emma Toussaint, and William Kelman - are well drawn and convincing. Emma's anguish at being separated from her children during their most formative years is all too easy to empathize with, as is her conflicted response to the pressure Kelman exerts on her. I found her reluctance to tell her supervisor about Kelman's initial approaches especially believable.
Raul Santos' initial willingness to use Emma to stop Kelman is equally understandable, given his experience with his enemy's ruthless tactics. Raul believes that any measures he has to take to put Kelman out of action are justified by the damage Kelman does to innocent people who cross his path. Raul soon finds himself attracted to the intelligent, wounded woman he had planned to use as his pawn. In fact, given their troubled pasts and lonely present, it seems almost inevitable that these two should be drawn to each other.
Kelman is the most difficult character to make credible and for the most part the author succeeds. Kelman must be menacing, yet capable of being accepted socially at the highest level. Bolivia, as portrayed by Kay David, is the ideal culture for such a man to operate in…a culture in which honest people prefer not to call the police under any circumstances. Kelman's ability to enlist thugs and subvert the police in his campaign to intimidate Emma cranked up the suspense to the point where I had to stop myself from peeking at the ending to make sure everything came out all right. That's high praise in a genre where a happy ending is pretty much guaranteed.
Obsession is a novel I know I will want to reread. In the meantime, I'll be hunting down and reading more of Kay David's work.
--Nancy J. Silberstein