Money, Honey
by Susan Sey
(Berkley Sensation, $7.99, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0-425-23548-5
****
Susan Sey’s clever debut is a smart, witty contemporary romance.  Money, Honey features a former thief-turned-novelist and an uptight FBI agent who needs his help to solve a case – a great premise that’s well-executed.  This is a new author to watch.

Liz Brynn is a Special Agent who plans to devote her life to her career.  She plays by the book and has earned her position – and the respect of her co-workers – by hard work and a strong personal code of right and wrong.  Some might even say she’s a bit…rigid.  Certainly Patrick O’Connor would label her as such.  Patrick and Liz worked on a case together three years ago, when she recruited the former jewel thief as an informant.  Their attraction to one another was undeniable, but they shied away from it.  Now Liz needs Patrick’s help again, this time on a counterfeiting case involving his own sister, and he won’t be her subordinate this time.  They’ll be on equal ground.

Mara and her husband run a casino in Grief Creek, Minnesota. Someone has been passing fake bills, and though she and her brother Patrick aren’t especially close, he’s been called in to help figure it out.  Patrick brings some dangerous baggage with him: a deal gone wrong has put an enemy on his tracks, which is one of the reasons he’s kept his distance from Mara for the last three years.  Liz isn’t thrilled to have Patrick working with her again, as he upsets her well-ordered world.  For his part, Patrick finds Liz just as fascinating as he did three years earlier, and would love to get close and personal with her.  This time, he just might manage it.

Patrick was loads of fun – casually cool with a quirky sense of humor.  He was a perfect foil for buttoned-down Liz (and I mean that literally, as her self-imposed “uniform” was a black polyester pantsuit).  Liz is great at her job, but has left little room in her life for anything else.   When Patrick set out to charm her out of that pantsuit, her defensive shields fly up.  In fact, Liz spends most of the book pushing him away, and that got a bit old.  After a while, her continuous, stubborn refusal to acknowledge what she secretly admits to herself – that she finds Patrick undeniably attractive – made her a little exasperating and took the story in circles. The book could have been fifty pages shorter and wouldn’t have suffered for it.

A number of interesting secondary characters round out the story.  Mara and her daughter, Evie, present Patrick with the challenge of repairing relations with his own family, and the incorrigible Evie keeps Patrick on his toes. Liz has a friend in Maria “Goose” de Guzman, a knockout fellow agent who will get her own story next. And the man on Patrick’s trail, Villaneuva, is a suitably nasty villain without becoming cartoonish.

Patrick sets up a clever plot to deal with the counterfeiter, and while Liz makes a few silly moves that put her in unnecessary danger, and Patrick keeps the threat from Villaneuva to himself for far too long, overall everything moves along nicely. Money, Honey is a sassy, fun debut that’s going to charm a lot of readers.  Sort of like its hero.   

--Cathy Sova


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