The Badge and the Baby

The Bane Affair

 
Larger Than Life by Alison Kent
(Brava, $14.00, NC-17) ISBN 0-7582-1112-0
****
Larger Than Life is the sixth book in Alison Kent’s Smithson Group series. I read and reviewed the first book in the series, The Bane Affair, last fall. The latest book isn’t quite as strong as the first installment, but it still tells a terrific story.

When he is discovered trespassing on private property, Smithson Group operative Mick Savin isn’t given an opportunity to apologize. Instead, he is tied up, dragged behind an ATV, and left for dead. Instead of dying, however, he’s found by Nevada (Neva) Case, who drives him and his dog back to town for some much-needed medical attention.

The small town where Neva lives has dangers of a different kind. She runs a business, but she also participates in an underground shelter network that helps underage girls flee from polygamous marriages. Although rumors run wild about Neva’s involvement and the fact that she helps runaways, she hasn’t been caught — yet. Still, she has a lot to lose, so she’s reluctant at first to trust Mick, a stranger who carries a suspicious gun: “That’s not a gun anyone has reason to carry. Unless they’re involved in preventing or committing crimes.”

Mick’s silence reinforces Neva’s concerns, but he has his own reasons for distancing himself. But the more he gets to know Neva, the more he wants to help her.

In addition to the main plot, Larger Than Life includes several subplots. One follows a young girl whose family wants her to marry a much older man; a second tells the story of Neva’s coworker, Candy, and her interracial relationship with Spencer, who is five years younger than she and going to college in the fall. A third plot focuses on Spencer’s parents, who face the challenges of a son who wants to make his own way in the world.

Some books with secondary plots are frustrating because they either overshadow or detract from the main plot. That’s not the case here. The transitions between plots are so smooth they’re barely noticeable, and each plot contributes to the story as a whole.

Mick and Neva are intriguing characters. Kent does a fine job of introducing them and letting the reader get to know them as individuals. Mick is a strong, smart man with a protective side. Neva is smart, brave, and feels strongly about the cause she believes in. I enjoyed the horse in-joke that develops throughout the book. Details like this one make the characters vivid and realistic.

Why Mick and Neva come to trust each other so quickly could have been more strongly portrayed. Neva senses his honesty and feels a connection between them, but it’s still a leap to go from strangers to “I love you” in a few days. Kent almost makes it work, and there’s certainly a compelling chemistry between them. I’m not sure that they are completely in love by the end of the story, but I am convinced that they have a solid foundation on which to build.

Although it’s an installment in a series, Larger Than Life stands fine on its own. There are mentions of previous characters, but they are more casual references than anything else. These references will make the book richer for those who have read the entire series but won’t slow down or interfere with the story for those who haven’t.

As a side note, kudos to Brava for the lovely cover showing a man in silhouette in front of a sunset. I hope they’ll do more covers like this in future.

--Alyssa Hurzeler


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