All the Queen's Men

A Bouquet of Babies

Cry No More

Death Angel

Drop Dead Gorgeous

Dying to Please

A Game of Chance

Killing Time

Kiss Me While I Sleep

Mr Perfect

Now You See Her

Open Season

Strangers of the Night

To Die For

Under the Boardwalk

Up Close and Dangerous

 
Burn by Linda Howard
(Ballantine, $26, PG) ISBN 978-0-3454-8656-1
***
A perfect summer read despite its nearly overwhelming amount of useless background information, Burn will draw readers in with its fresh plotline and hopefully not push them away with its lack of organization.

The daughter of a scam artist, Jenner Redwine always lived from paycheck to paycheck, never even having a checking account. All that changes when her deadbeat boyfriend sends her for a six pack and she buys the winning lotto ticket. One hundred fifty million dollars and change after taxes completely alters Jenner's life and - more importantly, to her - her friendships. All of a sudden, everyone either hates her or expects her to be the life of the party, all while wanting her to foot the bill. She ditches her blue-collar background and moves to Florida, where she finds the best friend of her life at a charity event.

Seven years later (none of which are given in mention in the book), Sydney and Jenner are preparing to take a charity cruise on a new ship.  When Jenner arrives at the airport, the limo kidnaps her, and an armed woman makes it clear that if Jenner doesn't cooperate, Syd will pay the price. What the price is, Jenner can't be sure; no ransom is demanded, just that Jenner playact. Her role is as the girlfriend of the head honcho, surly and demanding Cael.

Fearing for Syd's life, Jenner goes along with the role. When she starts to enjoy the kidnappers' company - Cael's in particular, Jenner initially chalks it up to Stockholm syndrome. Gradually, though, she comes to realize that the handful of people onboard who are in on this scheme aren't bad people. Naturally, that leads her to wonder just what they are up to - and what she finds out doesn't do anything to settle her nerves.

At the last minute, Cael Traylor had been called in by the government to surveil the high-profile millionaire owner of a luxury ship. During its maiden voyage, it is believed that a deal will be made from Hawaii with the North Koreans. Unfortunately, the man is paranoid and the room Cael had booked gets changed. Jenner Redwine happens to have the suite they want, and they have to hijack her to get it.

Cael knows Jenner is trouble the first time they meet, and it quickly becomes trouble of a deeper nature than just the fact that she doesn't take orders worth a damn. They follow the meeting with the North Korean, but Cael still has the feeling that something is up. When he realizes its a bomb with just minutes to spare, Cael knows there is more at stake on this job than spy games and payouts - an entire ship's worth of people have been led like lambs to the slaughter.

Okay, so the title doesn't make much sense, at least not that I could tell. The plot drags right on up until the end, when everyone's running around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to diffuse the bombs. The hundred pages of Jenner's life before becoming a millionaire are all but pointless, since the fact that she's a lotto winner does not play into her kidnapping whatsoever. And, while I generally enjoy the omniscient rotating of points of view, it didn't lend much extra insight in this novel. Burn is a total mess. Regardless of its technical flaws, however, it is a compelling read. Readers with a Titanic fixation will be thrilled, and Howard's fans will be pleased regardless.

--Sarrah Knight


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