Pursuit by Karen Robards
(Signet, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-0-451-22952-6
I picked up Karen Robards latest paperback release, Pursuit because I am a political junkie.  When I’m not reading and reviewing romances, I am surfing the internet and visiting the blogs.  So when I read about a story of the suspicious death of a First Lady and its ramifications, I was intrigued.  I finished the book with a sinking feeling that Robards’ Orwellian view of the ruthlessness of those in political power may be too close to reality for comfort.  (Just for reference, I am an Obamabot and am a believer that government can and should be a positive force in society.  I just worry about the incredible reach of modern technology and its potential for misuse.)

Jessica Ford is a lowly associate at a powerful DC law firm.  She’s no Ivy League grad, but a talented and hardworking attorney from the lower middle class who has risen by virtue of her talent and determination.  One night her boss calls her with a special assignment.  She is to go to a local hotel and meet Annette Cooper, who has ditched her Secret Service protection and called her personal attorney for help.  Jessica is to somehow deal with the situation.  Jess succeeds in convincing Mrs. Cooper to leave the hotel and enter the car her boss has sent.  A short time later, on a rural Virginia road, said car leaves crashes and burns, killing three of the people therein – the First Lady, the driver, and the Secret Service agent who managed to jump into the speeding car as it left the hotel.

Mark Ryan is the Secret Service agent in charge of the First Lady’s security detail.  He had left the White House earlier that evening, while the First Couple were at a state dinner.  He arrives at the scene of the crash, completely appalled that Mrs. Cooper had somehow managed to slip away from her security.  As he investigates the area, he discovers the First Lady’s purse and its incriminating vial of pills.  He pockets them, determined to protect the secret that she was addicted to prescription drugs.  He also finds Jess, who had been thrown from the car and is hanging on to life.

Jess awakes in the hospital, confused and in pain.  She knows that something dreadful has happened and that somewhere in her confused mind, she has information that could be dangerous.  When someone enters her room and tries to kill her, she realizes that she has become a pawn in something bigger than she understands.  She manages to thwart this first attempt, but she knows it won’t be the last.  She can trust no one.

Mark can not quite believe that his charge’s death is what it seems, a tragic accident.  He realizes that Jess has some knowledge of the event that she seems unwilling to share.  He also realizes that her life is in danger.  Before the truth comes out, Jess and Mark will face threats from unknown forces and only their skill and determination will save them.

I liked both the hero and the heroine.  If it takes Jess a long time to trust Mark, her suspicions are well founded.  She knows someone in power wants to eliminate her and her knowledge of what happened.  Why should she trust someone who is part of the system that is trying to kill her?  That she finds Mark attractive only adds to her confusion and uncertainty.  Mark realizes early on that someone is out to get Jess and he is determined to protect her and to learn the truth about what happened that night.  Mark comes to appreciate Jess’s grit, determination and intelligence.  That sparks of attraction fly between the two who are being pursued by ruthless men seems completely comprehensible.  And the sparks do fly.

The suspense in Pursuit is unrelenting.  The question as to who is responsible for both the death of the First Lady and the attempts to silence the witness who might shed light on what really happened and her protector remains a mystery.  But the suspicion is that those in power will do anything to prevent the truth from coming out is pervasive.

As I indicated above, the picture that is painted about the ruthlessness of the powerful in modern America is, to put it mildly, disconcerting.  Whether my discomfort with the premises of Pursuit– which detracted from my enjoyment of the story – is based on idealism and wishful thinking I leave to others to determine.  Robards tells an exciting story.  It just left me feeling uncomfortable

--Jean Mason

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