Ultra Violet by Ellen Henderson
(Silh. Bombshell, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-51378-X
Debut author Ellen Henderson certainly knows her way around a creative idea, and Ultra Violet is an engaging romantic suspense. How’s this for an opening? Violet Marsh is sitting in front of the police station, trying to get up the nerve to go inside and tell them that she’s lost five days of her life. She remembers stopping for a quickie taco dinner on her way home from work, and then… nothing, until she woke up almost a week later inside her apartment with the feeling that something terrible happened to her.

Violet is amazed, and not a little annoyed, when a strange woman named Natalie calls her by name outside the police station and seems to know a lot about her, including the fact that Violet can’t account for the missing time. She also knows that Violet is hungry all the time and just that morning, put a hole through her dining room wall. Natalie works for Gideon Enterprises, and they need Violet as much as she needs them.

Gideon Enterprises is made up of an assortment of mercenary types, security specialists, and a teenaged computer whiz. They’ve been tracking the activities of a group called SynCor, and they have proof that it was SynCor who abducted Violet and likely did some genetic enhancements on her. SynCor obviously believes it didn’t work, so Violet was released. What they don’t know is that Violet now has the capability of moving at many times the normal speed of a human, and this velocity gives her enormous power – a power that Gideon Enterprises needs to break into SynCor and rescue a child who has been kidnapped for the same purpose as Violet.

Violet is unconvinced, until several thugs try to do her harm. She reluctantly agrees to work with Malcolm Gideon and his crew, including the disturbing agent named Jackson, but privately plans to get the medical data she needs on herself and then bail out. As Violet is drawn tighter into the web of Gideon’s activities, she finds herself attracted to Jackson, who doesn’t seem to reciprocate. When Violet discovers the real reason behind Gideon’s plan, she has to make the decision to truly join the group or stick to her own interests.

This was an extremely clever story, well-plotted and fast-moving. Violet’s fear and bewilderment are palpable, and her reluctance to trust total strangers is understandable – up to a point. Jackson is an appropriately Alpha hero who isn’t initially too impressed with Violet, but as they get to know one another, his dislike turns to admiration and then much more. Be aware that the romance takes a back seat to the suspense, as Jackson and Violet circle each other warily for much of the book. But given her independent nature, it wouldn’t have rung true if she had clamped onto him as a lifeline.

Violet’s determination to hold herself aloof and look out for herself by backing out when she achieves her own aim may have been true to character, but it led to several scenes in which she acted more like a headstrong teenager than a woman trying to save her neck. She places herself in danger unthinkingly, which necessitates a “rescue” by Jackson, and even though he reams her out for it, it doesn’t humble her much. You’d think with hired killers out to get her, she’d abandon her plan of going it alone and take advantage of the safety that Gideon and his crew can offer her. Violet comes around eventually, but it takes too long. Granted, it may play out better for some readers than others.

The dialogue is realistic and snappy, the plot will sustain a reader’s interest, and the door is left open for more adventures of Gideon Enterprises. Ultra Violet is a good fit for readers who like romantic suspense. Ellen Henderson has a natural voice for contemporary romance and this one’s easy to recommend. Check it out.

--Cathy Sova

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