In Hot Pursuit by Patricia Ryan
(Harl. Temp. #701, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25801
In Hot Pursuit is the third of five books in the 'Hero for Hire' series, all featuring bodyguards who work for S.J. Slade's San Francisco firm. Over the next two months, we've still got Margaret Brownley's Body Language and Ruth Jean Dale's A Private Eyeful to anticipate. I don't know that I envy these remaining two authors. The first three books have been pretty awesome and have begun and maintained a tradition of high-quality stories. I've really been impressed with all three and have enjoyed them tremendously.

In Hot Pursuit features one of the most entertaining, most multifaceted heroines it's been my pleasure to meet in a long time. Summer Love writes a gossip column for a trendy San Francisco magazine. One day she writes a paragraph which is going to get her in plenty of hot water, so much so that her boss hires a bodyguard. She's certain that she doesn't need said bodyguard until her apartment is broken into. Now she believes.

Roman Fitzpatrick is an ex-cop with a secret, a secret which is alluded to for most of the book. During his police days in Los Angeles, a body was found in his car trunk but there wasn't enough evidence to indict him. We're given titillating bits and pieces of his past and are left to wonder if he did indeed commit murder. He's positive that the press convicted him and sentenced him, all without benefit of a trial. Guarding Summer is one of his hardest assignments to date. He lusts after this woman, painfully and constantly. But her chosen profession, that of writing flighty bits of fluff, is incomprehensible to him. He now has a deep abhorrence of the press.

Summer and Roman are fully realized characters and come alive on the pages. They both have emotional scars which keep them from committing to a relationship, and Ms. Ryan's skillful handling of their emotional baggage makes us appreciate the resolution and the commitment all the more. Summer, whose real name is Summer of Love, was raised in a commune by hippie-type parents. She still clings to some of her early beliefs learned in the commune. When her parents died and she was sent to a parochial school, she considers those days as the dark ones and remembers the sense of imprisonment. With that in mind, she has chosen to live her life basically unencumbered – until Roman, that is, who just might be able to change her mind.

Through the skillful use of POV, we know that Roman's "murder charge" has left him a changed man. While he may be very attracted to Summer, her profession always gets in his way. He can't shake his dislike of the press after their savage attack of him. The more he stays around Summer, the more he wonders if his attitude is misconceived. He's beginning to admire her. And when he finally gives in to his lust...well, let's just say that you're going to be reading some of the hottest, most scorching scenes that are allowed in categories. This takes category sensuality to a new high.

The reason for having Roman as a bodyguard is a well-done suspense thread. Two equally suspicious and plausible would-be villains shared in my presumptions of guilt. The resolution really surprised me and was achieved with such flair that I was delighted when I discovered that I had been skillfully led astray.

Witty dialog translates itself into a wonderfully clever repartee between these two. Summer sees Roman as a combination of Elliott Ness and Fred Flintstone. When she introduces Roman as Fred Ness, she sees his eyebrows shoot up. Later she confides that Elliott Flintstone just didn't have the right ring to it. No kidding! I chuckled a good bit when he in turn called her Wilma. How these two segue Kevin Costner movies into their conversations are laugh aloud good times, too.

Frequently Summer's early commune roots show. She isn't keen on the technical revolution or even the industrial revolution.

"I don't know–your camera equipment looks pretty high-tech." Roman commented.

"I've tried using a box with a hole in it, but I didn't like the results."

Roman then notices that she uses a typewriter to type her column and that amazes him, too. What took me down memory lane is when she pulls out an aluminum ice tray, the kind with the lift-tab in the center to loosen the cubes. I haven't thought about those in ages. Her idea of an answering machine is to answer her phone by saying, "I'm not at home. Leave a message." She's quirky enough to be intriguing but with enough moxie to pull off her role with panache.

In Hot Pursuit is a classy, stylish story. I can't imagine any warm blooded female not wanting Roman Fitzpatrick to guard her body. And who can resist a heroine who uses "groovy" and "cool" in her daily vocabulary? Patricia Ryan has a winner with her latest story. So do we.

--Linda Mowery

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