Not many novels get your pulse racing from the start. Quinn’s Woman does just that. On page one, we meet D. J. Monroe, a tough-as-nails heroine participating in war games with emergency services and military personnel. The goal of the game is to capture five people and bring them back to “headquarters.” As evening falls, D. J. quickly captures four people. The fifth is Quinn Reynolds, whose special forces training makes him a more difficult catch. Catch him D. J. does, and with the first chapter, Mallery caught my interest in a promising story that isn’t fully realized.
D. J. and Quinn experience an almost immediate mutual attraction. An accident allows D. J. to catch Quinn off guard, at which point she ties him up and plans to return with him to headquarters the next day. They go to sleep but Quinn escapes before morning. Quinn’s obvious skills make D. J. (a private consultant specializing in self-defense) realize that he has something she can use — his military knowledge and training. She offers to pay him to give her lessons. He declines. She asks again, this time with different terms: she’s willing to trade sex for training in self-defense. This time, Quinn agrees to instruct her but he insists on his own terms.
Mallery deserves credit for creating two memorable characters — D. J., who wants to be in control (a trait that extends to the bedroom); and Quinn, who exhibits both a healthy self-esteem and an endearing ability to laugh at himself. We learn what motivates D. J. early in the story: “She would be stronger, faster, smarter, and finally the ghosts would be laid to rest.” Quinn, on the other hand, is a special-forces man on hiatus and at a crossroads: An earlier assignment (explained briefly in flashback) makes him question what he wants for the future.
The strongest parts of the story are the passionate scenes where D. J. confronts her need for control. Mallery adeptly weaves the theme of physical intimacy versus emotional intimacy throughout the book. D. J. prefers keeping the physical as uncomplicated as possible, stating, “Sex is easy because it doesn’t matter.” Several glimpses into D. J.’s thoughts indicate that her past was an especially painful one, a fact that is confirmed when she confides the details to Quinn.
But D. J.’s aloofness, while central to this theme, also makes it difficult to connect with her as a heroine. I admire her persistence, her bluntness, and her skills, but I don’t relate to her. This aloofness gives the ending a rushed feeling. I found myself wishing that the story could have continued for another 50 pages to make the conclusion seem less abrupt.
An additional challenge to a full enjoyment of the plot comes in the form of Rebecca Lucas, D. J.’s main confidante. Matchmaker extraordinaire, Rebecca acts as a sounding board to D. J. and Quinn and a source of annoyance to this reader. In one scene, for instance, Rebecca and Quinn discuss D. J. as if she’s not there. Rebecca says, “D. J. doesn’t get out much, which you may have noticed. Not that she doesn’t need to.” Rebecca makes similar abrasive comments throughout and is more plot device than friend.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that Quinn’s Woman is the final book in Mallery’s Hometown Heartbreakers series. While I have read most of the previous installments, this story works as a stand-alone piece. Readers willing to overlook a few shortcomings may find that it also works as an interesting read even if it doesn’t rival Mallery’s best works.