Knock Me Off My Feet
Take a Chance on Me

Public Displays of Affection
by Susan Donovan
(St. Martin‘s, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-312-99232-7
Public Displays of Affection is Susan Donovan’s third novel. After reading her first two, she quickly became one of my favorite authors. It was exciting to be able to read this newest release for review.

Thirteen years ago Charlotte Tasker was on her way to the airport to pick up her boyfriend, Kurt. His roommates spilled the beans and she knew he planned to propose to her. Knowing Kurt was not a wild guy in the sex department, she was regretting not having explored her “bad” side before now. With this on her mind, she noticed a gorgeous man in a black Jeep flirting with her. Within minutes they had pulled into a national forest parking lot just off the highway and had the most amazing, mind-blowing sex of their lives…in the weeds. Without exchanging names or any personal information, they went their separate ways.

This sounds a little crazy…ok, maybe a lot crazy…but Donovan pulls it off and everything about the situation is believable. Not all the details of the encounter are revealed right away, however. They are revealed slowly as the story progresses and it feels a lot like great foreplay. This book is steamy and hot all the way through!

Fast forward to the present. Charlotte did indeed marry Kurt and they had two children: Henrietta (better known as Hank) and Matt. Kurt died eighteen months ago, so she and the kids are alone. Charlotte always remembered the man she had hot sex with all those years ago and he had been the vision of her fantasies ever since. Her married sex life had been more than disappointing, although Kurt had been a good husband and father.

Lo and behold, the man of her fantasies just moved in next door! He is Joe Bellacera (yes, like the wine) but currently goes by the name Joe Mills. He’s an undercover DEA agent hiding out in Minton, Ohio, because of a million dollar contract on his life. His partner, along with his partner’s wife and son, had already been murdered. Joe uses the cover of being a reclusive mystery writer who has moved to town for inspiration and privacy. It doesn’t take Joe long to realize who his neighbor is - the woman he had been looking for the last thirteen years. He always regretted not memorizing her license plate number or asking her name or something. Ironically, he can’t get involved with her now or he may put her and her family in jeopardy because of the danger he’s in.

The fact that Joe moves in next door to Charlotte, of all the places in the country to live, is another stretch - a big one. But, the witty nature of Donovan’s writing demands the reader give her more storyteller license than would be appropriate for most other authors. Her books just wouldn’t be the same without it. The outrageous situations her characters fall into is part of what makes her so wonderful to read.

Eventually Charlotte and Joe do meet, albeit in a very awkward and confusing scene that fell short of the build-up to that particular moment. Beyond that the story is quite simple - Joe gets to know Charlotte and her family and friends and constantly battles his feelings about risking his cover and her life by being next door to her, never mind getting emotionally involved. Charlotte’s struggle involves the fact that she has two children and this man is a virtual stranger (who carries a gun and has a house fortified like Fort Knox). But she does desperately want to have sex with him at least one more time before she dies.

The storyline sounds a bit trashy, but Donovan makes it anything but. There is an incredible attraction between the hero and heroine that’s hot enough to blister paint. The one thing lacking was the outrageous witty humor the author became known for in Knock Me Off My Feet. This book just doesn’t make keeper status without it. But credit is due for creating a hero that beats any fantasy I’ve ever had. He’s one for the record books.

If outrageous, semi-erotic romance is your thing, I suggest you run to the nearest bookstore to get your hands on Public Displays of Affection.

--Tracy Merritt

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