By Love Undone

London's Perfect Scoundrel

A Matter of Scandal

Meet Me at Midnight

The Rake

Reforming a Rake

Taming Rafe

 
Don't Look Down
by Suzanne Enoch.
(Avon, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-06-059364-4
***
A mystery and suspense series revolves around a character's on-going adventures; a romance series relates the love lives of interconnected characters. After all, once a hero and heroine declare their love for each other, it is hard to prolong their conflict for another three-hundred pages. Yet, this is exactly what Suzanne Enoch attempts in Don't Look Down, the second of two books featuring Samantha Jellicoe, cat burglar extraordinaire, and Richard Addison, British aristocrat and wealthy businessman. The story might have worked as a stand-alone, but as an extra installment, it doesn't quite make it.

The novel opens three months after Sam and Richard have decided to give their relationship a run. She is going straight with a high-powered security business. He is relocating his business to Palm Beach so they can spend more time together. When her first potential client is murdered during a burglary, Sam is determined to find his killer and will use any means possible. Richard, who fears for her safety and wants her to stay on the right side of the law, bets her that going by the book will provide quicker and more satisfying results. Not exactly the smartest move when faced with a dare-devil and adrenaline junkee. And so begins the race to find the murderer.

Unfortunately, despite the conflict announced in this set-up, there is very little tension -romantic or otherwise. Sure, Richard worries that their potentially sedate life won't give Sam the rush she needs to keep her interested, while she wants her precious independence and resents his protective attitude, no matter how well intentioned. She also fears her illicit activities will give him grounds not to trust her. With such strong personalities, it isn't surprising that sparks fly between them. But their push-me-pull-you relationship is predictable and the sex, with one highly memorable exception, mechanical.

The mystery plot does not compensate for these limitations. Sam immediately zones in on the potential murderers, and nothing makes her (or the reader) reconsider her suspicions. Her investigative methods are dubious, not because she relies on her burglary skills, but because the clues are so obvious. The criminal may not be a mastermind, but even he would cover up his tracks more effectively. He wouldn't hock traceable treasures, and especially not if they will be pegged as stolen.

To pursue her inquiry, Sam joins forces with both Richard's first wife and a Palm Beach gigolo, who has no problems turning tables against the woman who hired him as an escort. The guy is likeable and charming, but I can't see him jumping saddles so quickly. And for a former thief, Sam is way too trusting: what, aside from Enoch's authorial hand, makes her so sure this guy is going to be loyal?

My biggest irritation, however, has nothing to do with either the romance or the suspense. One morning, Samantha feasts on a stack of syrup-soaked pancakes. Little more than an hour later, she digs into chocolate donuts. Yes, I hate her for being a pig with a model-thin figure. How does she down such carbohydrate-rich food without feeling stuffed and queasy?

Readers don't need to have read Flirting with Danger to understand Don't Look Down. But after having read them in the reverse order, my advice is: stop with the first one. It's witty and charming and hot. Don't Look Down isn't deeply flawed, but it depends much too much on the chemistry established in the first book for its three-heart rating.

--Mary Benn


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