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Flirting With Fire
by Kristen Robinette
(Loveswept 884, $3.50, PG) ISBN 0-553-44582-0
***
Flirting with Fire suffers from mild schizophrenia. It can't quite decide if it wants to be a romance or a mystery. Its indecision and lack of concentration on either the romance or mystery are apparent. Because of that vacillation that blurry feeling, I can't recommend it.

Handwriting expert Samantha Delaney is going to be a star witness at the trial of mobster Dante DiCarlo...if his scare tactics don't convince her otherwise. His blatant harassment finally gets to her, and she flees temporarily to a small town.

Samantha rents an apartment from Daniel Caldwell, a man with terrible secrets of his own. Thirteen years before, his home had burned down, with the fire killing his father. The main suspect was his younger brother, who has been warehoused in an institution until very recently. Daniel's got the dual job of gradually reintroducing his brother into society and finally getting an accurate diagnosis of his brother's condition. Is he a pyromaniac, mildly retarded, what?

What made this story too much of a mystery and not enough of a romance for me is that the secrets of both brothers aren't revealed until very late in the story. While I was trying to determine who was bothering Daniel and Samantha, their relationship became less the focal point and more of a peripheral issue. Being disinterested in both the mystery and the relationship, I was unaffected and was never drawn into the intensity, fear, tension or caring.

Samantha was much too trusting for my tastes. Here she is, hiding from a mobster who has contacts throughout a multi-state area and she tells two people of her predicament. While she doesn't quite fall into the category of "Too Stupid To Live", she skirts mighty close.

Daniel has been silent about his brother for thirteen years. Suddenly he's revealing family secrets to this woman whom he barely knows. But his motivations are more credible. If Samantha is untrustworthy, then Daniel's life is not at stake. Not so with her announcements. I'm also bothered by what I'd call 'acquaintance sex.' They don't know each other. That's so obvious to me because we don't know them.

What starts out as Samantha's story quickly transforms into Daniel's story and then into an indistinct miasma. We have parallel stories that never mesh to my satisfaction. People who like mysteries or romances may not feel quite satisfied with Flirting With Fire.

--Linda Mowery


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