The Man She Almost Married

On Dangerous Ground

Prime Suspect

Dangerous Liaisons by Maggie Price
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1043, $4.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-27113-1
Don't you just love that feeling when you close a romance and feel completely satisfied by the story, the characters, the plot, and the happily-ever-after? That's how I felt when I finished reading Dangerous Liaisons last night.

When homicide sergeant Jake Ford glimpses cool, elegant Nicole Taylor on the dance floor at his partner's wedding reception, a five-alarm fire breaks out in his body and fuels his most ardent desires. Reeling from a string of tragedies, he wants nothing to do with a woman - especially when the woman is the younger sister of his partner's new groom, Assistant D.A. Bill Taylor, the guy who'd charged him with eight counts of murder only a short while back. When Nicole is swirled into his arms on the dance floor later that evening, Jake realizes she's more than the cause of the inferno raging in his body - she's dangerous to his fragile, tormented emotional state.

A week later, Jake still can't get the memory of Bill Taylor's sultry sis out of his head, even though he's pouring his heart and soul into catching the guy who killed a little boy in a drive-by shooting. He gets a call to investigate a possible homicide at Stonebridge, an exclusive gated community in Oklahoma City. Imagine his surprise when he finds out the lady of his erotic daydreams was the first witness on the murder scene.

Nicole's equally unraveled by Jake Ford. She insists that he's not her type, although she can't deny the attraction she feels for him. The owner of an exclusive dating service, this self-styled "romance engineer" prides herself on being able to match up lonely hearts through rapt observation. No, Nicole's type is solid, safe, a calm harbor. She knows just by looking at Jake that he might be solid, but there's no smooth sailing ahead. Then some of her best clients begin dropping dead, and suddenly, Jake's her rock.

Nicole's never really a serious suspect in the case, although she seems to be close by when the deaths occur. Quickly, Jake's protective instincts come out when he sees how the murders affect her. (Since Jake is such an alpha-type, it's cool that the author doesn't let Nicole slip into the role of helpless victim or turn her into The Woman Who Can Never Accept Help From a Man.) Doggedly, Jake pursues the killer and equally doggedly, he tries to keep his feelings for Nicole from deepening.

There are so many reasons why I liked Dangerous Liaisons. Like the fact that the author brought a level of police procedural detail into the story that was very interesting, yet unobtrusive. Or that the mystery element of the story doesn't overshadow the connection between Nicole and Jake. Oy! Did I say connection? The sexual tension between these two is fantastic. Take it from me: the consummation scene is well worth the buildup. Both Nicole and Jake are tormented by their pasts, desperate to make the right decisions. Although Jake behaves like an Alpha creep in several scenes, there are no long waits for explanations. When he does explain his behavior, it makes perfect sense, considering his history.

A dark, tortured hero. A heroine who can stand on her own two feet. Passion. Romance. A solid, well-plotted mystery. Great dialogue. For this reader, it all adds up to a delightful way to spend a Sunday night - and a fruitless search on Monday morning for Maggie Price's backlist!

--Diana Burrell

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