Blackhawk's Sweet Revenge

Secret Baby Santos

Killianís Passion
Barbara McCauley
(Silh. Desire #1242, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-76242-9
When Iím reading a book Iím going to review, I dog-ear any page that I think I might want to reference later. Sometimes the dog-ears mean good things -- a well-worded phrase, a funny moment, a bit of powerful sexual tension (well, Iím usually too busy clutching the book to remember to dog-ear those pages, but you get the idea). Other times, the dog-ears are bad omens -- indicating particularly ridiculous, irritating, or clichť elements of the book.

When I wind up with a roughly equal number of bad dog-ears and good dog-ears, itís a pretty sure bet that Iím holding a 3-heart book. Killianís Passion fits that bill -- the standout elements are neutralized by the irritants, leaving me with an ďacceptableĒ read.

Cara Sinclair is an inexperienced private investigator whoís taken on a case close to her heart. Sheís looking for the long-lost grandson of her friend and business partner, and sheís pretty sure sheís found him. Killian Shawnessy certainly fits the profile, and heís even got his grandmotherís eyes. Now all she has to do is bring him to Philadelphia to meet his new-found family.

Which turns out to be a bit harder than she expected. Killian, called Ian by most, is an operative for a top-secret government agency. Heís vacationing in East Texas for about a week to attend the wedding of an old friend, and after that, heís flying to Cairo for a dangerous mission. He has no time -- and no inclination -- to get involved with a family member heís never even heard of. Abandoned as an infant and raised in foster homes and reform schools, Ian has never known anything about his biological relatives, and heís spent a good part of his life telling himself he doesnít care to know anything.

But Cara is nothing if not persistent, and sheís determined not to go back to Philadelphia without her man. And so begins a battle of wits and wills between our hero and heroine, full of snappy dialogue and mutual attraction. An unexpected series of threats to Caraís life adds some intrigue to the mix, and the story rolls along at a pace-turning pace.

Cara is a great heroine -- funny, resourceful, confident, and bright. Sheís persistent, but not in an in-your-face-every-minute, overly-spunky way. And though she lacks experience as a field investigator, sheís skilled enough to get herself out of some sticky situations. Next to Ianís years of military and government training, she could have come off as a real bumbler, but she manages to hold her own.

Ian is harder to like. Heís cocky, impatient, overbearing, and rude. Heís not a very good listener, and he never apologizes for anything he does wrong. Although his profession and his background go a long way to explaining his off-putting personality, itís not quite enough to make him hero material.

On the other hand, his rough treatment of Cara at least indicates that he sees her as an equal. Thatís much less irritating than the kind of hero who thinks women should be ignored or treated like dainty porcelain figurines. And he did kind of loosen up as the story went on, developing a passable sense of humor and a bit more forbearance. But heís still kind of a dud next to Cara.

Which makes it difficult to understand what she sees in him. Sure, heís great-looking, and heís got a commanding presence, and he sets off ďfireworksĒ in her bloodstream, but thatís just chemistry. Not that I underestimate chemistry, mind you -- itís just not love. I could believe that Cara might feel empathy for him, might admire his successful rise from a deprived background, but I didnít see enough in him, or in their interactions, to make me believe she could fall for him.

Furthermore, thereís a lot to overlook in this book in order to enjoy it. Both characters do some silly, hard to believe things, and the first two chapters contain some creepy overtones of sexual violence that disturbed me a bit.

As for the mystery element of the book, itís only passable. I had the villain pegged very early on, but I wasnít sure of the motivations behind the threats to Caraís life, so my interest was maintained. But thereís no real spine-tingling suspense here -- readers looking for a romantic thriller should be aware that this isnít one.

Despite all these complaints, I canít honestly say I didnít enjoy this book. The writing is smooth, the dialogue is brisk and generally realistic, and thereís a genuine spark of humor -- mostly coming from Cara, who is a real treat of a heroine. So overall, Iíd call Killianís Passion flawed, but funny and fast-paced. You could do a lot worse.

-- Ellen Hestand

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