All the Queen's Men
Blood Born
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

Veil of Night
by Linda Howard
(Ballantine, $26.00, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0-345-50689-4
Let me begin this review by referring you to my thoughts on Linda Howard’s last book, Ice: (In said review, I expressed my unhappiness with the brevity of the book, the undeveloped nature of the characters, the typicality of the plot, and the mediocrity of the romance.  I rated the book as “think twice.” (That’s what two hearts means.)  I also pined for the complex, engaging and entertaining romances of Howard’s past.  With this disappointment in mind, I opened Veil of Night with some trepidation.  Would I find another book that seemed simply “mailed in” or would I find at least some echo of the Linda Howard whose older works I love and often reread?

The answer to this question is a bit of both.  Veil of Night is certainly a better book than Howard’s last offering.  But it lacks the depth and interest of her earlier works.  Clearly this is an “acceptable”  romantic suspense novel, but frankly, I (and I imagine her other fans) expect more.

Howard has set her latest story against the background of the contemporary wedding craziness.  The heroine, Jaclyn Wilde, and her mother Madelyn, run Premiere, one of Atlanta’s best event planning business and as the story opens, Jaclyn finds success may be too much of a good thing.  Premiere has six weddings in five days with all that entails.  So it’s not surprising that Jaclyn forgot to mail in her traffic fine and has to visit city hall.  As she rushes to her next appointment she literally bumps into the hottest guy she has met in months, nay years.  The tingle is instantaneous but Jaclyn has no time for dalliance.

The biggest cloud on Jaclyn’s horizon is not the insane schedule she faces but rather the Bridezilla to end all Bridezillas.  Carrie Edwards has been making Jaclyn and everybody else involved with her wedding crazy for a year and the date is still a month away.  After an insane phone call with the bride-to-be (her latest start is her determination to redo the bridesmaid dresses) and facing a meeting with Carrie the next day, Jaclyn decides she deserves a drink.  She chooses a bar where cops hang out and who should be there but the hunk from earlier. 

Detective Eric Wilder is delighted to see the attractive woman who almost mowed him down again and is happy to pursue the acquaintance.  In typical Howard fashion, the hormones go into overdrive and the two end up in bed together that very night.  The sex is great. Jaclyn, who doesn’t do this kind of thing, is shocked by her behavior.  She tells Eric to call next week when her crazy schedule slows down and hopes he will.  But Jaclyn and Eric are destined to meet much sooner and under trying circumstances.

The next day’s meeting with Bridezilla does not go well.  Carrie manages to infuriate the dressmaker, insult the veil maker, antagonize the florist, anger the caterer, and both verbally and physically assault Jaclyn.  When the bride-to-be follows up the slap with the axe, Jaclyn couldn’t be happier.  Even the fact that Carrie is marrying into Atlanta’s moneyed and political elite is not enough to make dealing with this bitch worth the effort.  But Carrie is not destined to be the bride of the year.  Shortly after the meeting breaks up, someone kills the young woman – with the skewers the caterer had left behind.

Eric is assigned the case and soon discovers that Jaclyn was the last person to see the victim alone and had a seeming motive for killing this most unpleasant person.  Since the department is short-handed, he is kept on the case, even though he admits to his fling with one of the suspects.  But he has to be very careful not to show any favoritism to Jaclyn.  For her part, Jaclyn is hurt and angry that the man who had made such passionate love to her could seemingly suspect her of murder.  It looks like any chance their relationship had for a future is gone.

 \Let me note that among the enjoyable aspects of Veil of Night are the characterizations of the heroine and hero.  Both are interesting, attractive and fun people.  The heat between them is palpable and their relationship works.  I did find the “conflict” a little farfetched.  Jaclyn is an intelligent person.  I can’t imagine that she would be so angry and hurt when Eric – in pursuit of his job – asks her legitimate questions and takes logical steps to determine her role if any in the murder.  Her negative reaction seems a very thin reed upon which to sustain a romantic conflict.

I found the suspense in Veil of Night well below my expectations.  Howard knows how to create tension and keep the reader wondering whodunit and why.  There is none of said tension here.  I found it pretty obvious from the outset who the likely killer was and the complications that Howard included did not really add to the atmosphere.

This said, there was enough entertaining stuff in the book – especially in the descriptions of the more unusual wedding behaviors – to make Veil of Night an acceptable romantic suspense novel.  It is clearly lighter than many of Howard’s stories (more like Drop Dead Gorgeous than Cry No More) but the author does lighter well.  If it lacks the depth and intensity of Howard’s earlier novels, well, truth be told, most current romance novels lack the depth and intensity of their predecessors.  Howard knows how to tell a good tale and her love scenes are still among the very best.

--Jean Mason

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