Hot by Julia Harper
(Grand Central, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN  978-0-446-91917-2
****
Well, to go a little cliche here, I'd have to say that Julia Harper's book Hot is just that - hot.  In addition to fun, action-packed, and comedic to the hilt.  It's the perfect summer read for those of you interested in a lighthearted-but-not-idiotic frolic.

Turner Hastings, the town librarian, has just robbed the president of the bank.  Who also happens to be the mayor, running for the legislature, and an embezzler to boot. Since she did this while two idiots dressed, respectively, as Yoda and Spongebob SquarePants, were robbing the bank itself, and was caught on the surveillance camera, the locals and the FBI are working under the impression that Turner's the mastermind of the whole heist.

However, lead special agent John MacKinnon quickly begins to believe that Turner had ulterior motives when she stole from the mayor - and that she just happened to take advantage of the robbery-in-progress.  Through some pretty simple detective work, Mac discovers that Turner has most likely had it in for Calvin Hyman for four years, since he accused her uncle of embezzling from the bank.

Turner's on the run in the area, but answering her cell phone, and when MacKinnon calls her, she confirms his suspicions.  Then she refuses, repeatedly, to surrender herself until she's found evidence that Hyman was actually the thief.

These phone conversations lead into an unusual — and intriguing - romance.  John and Turner don't actually meet in person until about two-thirds of the way through the book. That's not to say that they don't have any sizzle; they certainly do, even before they begin ... communicating a little more physically.

The mystery/suspense angle in Hot isn't really too mysterious or suspenseful, but it's done well for a romance novel.  It's pretty clear from the beginning that Calvin, despite being mayor and president of the bank, is the embezzler, and made equally clear that he's the one trying to have Turner offed.  I don't think the author is trying to make the book tricky; she's just giving it a nice, fast-paced touch.  Hot is definitely funny, heading towards Lani Diane Rich's sense of humor; the sections told from Calvin's conniving perspective are especially entertaining.

This book should appeal to romance readers of all kinds, although the "sensitive" reader should know up-front that the FBI agents have what many would consider bad language.

--Sarrah Knight


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