The Naked Truth by Dani Sinclair
(Harl. Temptation #690, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25790-2
****
If you're a fan of the old Thin Man movies or the Katherine Hepburn/Cary Grant classic, Bringing Up Baby, then you're going to enjoy the madcap antics of our lovers. The Naked Truth is Dani Sinclair's first Temptation; she's written three Harlequin Intrigues. Here's hoping that NT is the first of many that she writes for the Temptation line. She's a welcome addition.

Spencer Griffen, our inept thief and hero, thinks that breaking into the home of Hadden Caldwell Summerton III, art collector extraordinaire, and stealing a nude painting is supposed to be a snap. Spencer knows that Summerton will be selling his art collection of nudes and erotica. Spencer needs to steal a certain nude before its existence becomes common knowledge. Seeing all the erotic art is a little nonplusing. He doesn't see the painting he's looking for, but he does find a woman hiding under Summerton's bed. Spencer mistakenly assumes that the woman is Summerton's fiancée.

Brenna Wolford is as inept a thief as Spencer Griffen. They're both searching for the same painting to steal, and they leave their first meeting without the painting and with the wrong impression of each other. She's not Summerton's fiancée, and he's most assuredly not a common thief.

Brenna is trying to steal the nude painting, one that her grandfather painted more than fifty years earlier. At the time, he signed another man's name on the painting. Now that he's a famous painter, if it becomes common knowledge that he forged a name, his reputation will be in shreds.

Spencer's reason for wanting to steal the same painting is equally altruistic. His grandmother, the widow of a world famous evangelist, was the model for the fifty-year-old painting. She's just been appointed as the chief spokesperson for a child pornography committee. Spencer knows that her credibility will be flatter than a highway stripe if it becomes common knowledge that she once posed nude.

Brenna and Spencer meet again and decide to join forces, although they haven't told each other their real identities or their true reasons for wanting the painting. One of their joint attempts has them breaking into a wall safe. Spencer, seeing all the nude statues and prurient art, decides that the safe combination must be 36-24-36. He's right! Later the two have fun as they try to recreate the details of a painting in which the people have used fruit in a . . . titillating manner.

Gentle is the most appropriate adjective I'd use to describe Spencer. Of course we've got the obligatory adjectives. He's sexy, successful, handsome, witty and considerate. Still, his kindness and tenderness seem to surround him, much like fuzz surrounds a peach. When he takes Brenna to his apartment, he's chagrined over its condition. Why, I wonder? We women know that men are messy. Spencer is immediately aware the moment that Brenna looks past the clutter and notices a box of sex toys, his sisters' gag gifts for a shower. Although the sex toys make him mighty uncomfortable, later the padded handcuffs do serve a higher purpose.

"The maid quit," he said desperately.
"I don't blame her."

After he's done a quick spit 'n polish in the bathroom, he sees Brenna standing in the doorway watching him.
"See? The health department would only give me a warning."

The mystery and intrigue surrounding the elusive painting are done with finesse and lightness. The ending resolution had me chuckling. Come to think of it, the overall feel of this book had me chuckling. While the comedy was breezy, it was never slapstick. My only suggestion for improvement would be for Brenna to be a bit stronger, more on Spencer's level. She needs more of his love of life, his joie de vivre. They're not so mismatched that it slows the relationship, but a bit more of Hepburn's serendipitous spirit would have increased my appreciation of this engaging story.

This is one time that crime does pay, with a life sentence. We romance readers refer to it as Happily Ever After.

--Linda Mowery


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