New author Virginia Kantra debuts with The Reforming of Matthew Dunn, a very acceptable romance between a wounded cop and a woman determined to atone for her husband's death. Detective Matthew Dunn is assigned to a seedy neighborhood and a position as a community liaison officer, where he meets Clare Harmon. Clare is running a neighborhood restoration project in which she's helping the residents turn weed-choked lots into vegetable gardens, thereby giving the locals the means to make a small living. Her workers are ex-cons and parolees, plus a few youths who are at risk of gang involvement.
Clare carries a lot of guilt. A gang member gunned down her husband, a lawyer. Clare hopes to rescue young teens from gang involvement and hopefully, down the line somewhere, prevent another death. When gorgeous cop Matthew moves in across the street, she's determined to show him that this is no whim on her part. She's there to stay.
Matthew can't figure out why this pretty, educated woman from an obviously well-to-do background would be living and working in one of the worst areas of town. She shouldn't be there. Heck, he shouldn't be there either, and hopefully in a couple of months, his wounded leg will have regained its strength and he'll be able to transfer back to the detective beat. In the meantime, he'll look out for her without getting involved, either with Clare or with the community.
Matthew, of course, is riding for a fall. This story line is saved from mediocrity by an abundance of strong dialogue, well-written and realistic. The characterizations of Clare and Matthew are also true to life and consistent. Clare, in fact, is so down-to-earth that her wealthy, privileged background comes as a surprise. It almost felt like a wrong fit. Luckily for readers, it's not a big part of the story.
The sexual tension is strong, and readers won't be disappointed at how Kantra handles the growing sizzle between Matthew and Clare. The secondary characters flesh out the story without taking over.
What may confuse readers, though, is the constant head-hopping between Clare and Matthew. There are point of view shifts on nearly every page, sometimes two and three per page, and it's a bit mentally exhausting trying to keep up with it. It definitely distracted me from the story in places.
The Reforming of Matthew Dunn is a strong start for this new author. With a bit more consistency in her writing, Virginia Kantra will end up on any number of must-buy lists.