AKA: Marriage

Diagnosis: Daddy

Hitched by Christmas

A Way With Women

The Protector by Jule McBride
(Harl. Tempt. #891, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25991-3
The Protector is based on an unbelievable contrivance and a lottery prize that could exist only inside the covers of a book. With this shaky foundation, the story never really gets off the ground.

New York precinct captain Sullivan Steele has a lot on his mind: a father who is missing and is suspected of embezzlement, a mother whoís won fifteen million dollars in the lottery and is demanding her sons get married or sheíll give it all to a wildlife refuge, and Judith Hunt. Judith is a sexy Internal Affairs investigator looking into his fatherís disappearance. Unfortunately, much as Sully would love to get closer to her, she keeps him at armís length.

When our story opens, Sully has written a nice little romantic note asking if there is a woman out there for him. Maybe with this tried and true method, heíll find a bride in three months, I guess. He corks it inside a bottle and throws it off a pier. (Somehow I think a singles ad might garner better results.) Any guesses as to who is going to find it? Readers, you may commence groaning now.

Judith doesnít believe Sullyís protestations of his fatherís innocence. Sheís also unwilling to trust any man, due to a traumatic incident in her past (and this rang true - itís definitely traumatic). But she longs for intimacy, and for some reason Captain Steele keeps popping into her thoughts.

When Judith discovers that Sullyís mother has fifteen million dollars in her bank account, sheís even more determined to nail Sullyís father. All she has to do is find him, but signs point to his death in a boat explosion after taking millions from a special police fund.

Sully and Judith manage to get into quite a steamy romance. He firmly believes in his fatherís innocence and keeps Judith in the dark when he finds some clues. This is going to lead to fireworks when she finds out, of course. I really had little trouble believing in their attraction. What bothered me most was the excruciatingly forced contrivance of having Judith discover the bottle with the note and spend time mooning over the charming stranger with poetry in his soul who wrote it. Sully notes that itís an unbelievable coincidence. Even the characters in this book have trouble with this premise.

Worse was the whole lottery background. Mom Steele tells her sons sheís hit the fifteen-million-dollar Lotto and they have three months to get married or the moneyís going south - to the Galapagos Islands, in fact. Aside from the fact that Sully is actually trying to meet the deadline (would you try to get hitched in three months to get your hands on five million? Most of it would be gone after the inevitable divorce papers were signed), there is the plot point of Judith then discovering the fifteen million in Mom Steeleís bank account.

It doesnít work that way. Lottery prizes are paid out over a period of years, not in lump sums. Even if this story took place in one of the four states that give a lump sum payout (and New York isnít one of them), the winner only gets half the lottery prize. Plus, the taxes that are withheld on New York lottery prizes are about 40 percent. Compute that out and Mom is getting about four hundred thousand a year for twenty to twenty-five years.

So why am I getting my knickers in a twist over a point like this?

Because itís part of the whole foundation on which this series rests. I doubt Sully would force himself into a marriage for a couple hundred thousand, which is what Mama Steele would really be giving her sons.

Because itís sloppy research. If I can confirm all I need to know about the New York State Lottery in less than eight minutes on the Internet, why couldnít the author? And I donít even play the lottery.

Because it insults my intelligence to have basic facts twisted into a fairy tale just to satisfy the whims of a story. Suspension of belief is one thing, but this went way beyond it.

Itís definitely a bad sign when a reader is so distracted by a plot setup that she canít focus on the romance. The Protector left me unsatisfied. If plot contrivances donít bother you, you may enjoy it far more than I did.

--Cathy Sova

@ Please tell us what you think! back Back Home