Hot (2008) by Julia Harper, published by Grand Central publishing, is a romantic comedy slash romantic suspense paperback, $6.99 US. This is Ms. Harper’s first contemporary novel set in Wisconsin. Here is the book’s description:
For four years, play-by-the-rules bank teller Turner Hastings has brooded over her uncle’s wrongful imprisonment. But when two bumbling crooks stumble into her branch (barely disguised in Yoda and Sponge Bob masks) and hold up the place, she sees a chance to do something she’s never thought possible: get revenge. She takes advantage of the melee to pull a heist of her own, seizing info from a security box that will exonerate her uncle.Sent to investigate a bank robbery in small town Wisconsin, Special Agent John MacKinnon discovers the robbers were two not-quite-so-bright thugs and one woman. Now, Turner is on the run. With SA MacKinnon on her trail, she’s breaking into the bank president Calvin’s house, kidnapping his Great Dane, and for the first time in her life, setting out to break a few rules. But when Calvin hires a hit-man, MacKinnon will have to decide between his career–and saving Turner.
My thoughts are that most readers will find this story fun. Most of the comic relief is to be found with Yoda and Sponge Bob and most of the colorful people who make up this rural Wisconsin town. As for the characters, they are pretty much predictable starting with Turner Hastings. She’s in her early thirties, single with one broken engagement behind her.
Being the local librarian, Turner has led a boring life until the bank robbery. She has decided to break the rules and steals the safety deposit box of bank president, Calvin Hyman. Her motive seems to be vigilante justice.
Her favorite uncle was fingered by Calvin for embezzling money from the bank four years ago and he died before the matter ever went to trial. So, Turner spends most of the book as a fugitive seeking evidence against Calvin Hyman that will clear her uncle’s good name.
Calvin Hyman is a man who grew up poor and with no prospects. His revenge was becoming a successful businessman right in his own hometown of Winosha. Being mayor, bank president and school board member, he’s looking for a state seat. However, with Turner stealing his safety deposit box, she poses a threat to his political career. With the primaries two weeks away, Calvin decides to hire a contract killer to remove the threat to his political ambitions.
Federal agents John MacKinnon and Dante Torelli are assigned the bank robbery case and drive down to Washburn County to investigate. The two men are rivals and that seems pretty much forced. Come to find out, the rivalry between the men only serves to resolve an important plot point later in the book. Moving on. John is forty years old, divorced with a sixteen year old daughter he hasn’t spoken to in three years. Much of his personal life branches off into a separate thread with a resolution that was a bit, dare I say it, predictable and resolved a bit too neatly.
Then there’s the romance where John and Turner develop most of their relationship over the cell phone. The two share sexy, witty banter back and forth while he pursues her. Turner has her hang-ups with men; John fears being alone. The two don’t actually meet face to face until the last 1/4th of the novel. John acts blatantly unprofessional as a federal agent assigned to uphold the law. He takes up her cause, has sex with her and is able to use his political connections to exonerate her of all charges. Their happily ever after for me was joined with uncertainty.
The book did have it’s share of comedic moments but it’s not enough to save this book. Also, the plot was rather thin and the romance didn’t work for me as I am not fond of long distance relationships. The story is embedded with dozens of cliches and there was nothing plausible to this story. I can’t believe that the FBI could not capture one woman and two idiots in a small rural town. The fact that they eluded the police for more than a day is laughable and incredulous. John did act unprofessional and should have been reprimanded but he wasn’t. Turner Hastings should have been arrested for theftbut she wasn’t. The two bumbling idiots get a “Fugitive” type ending[they escape en route to prison] that means that they won’t face justice either and or free to probably stumble into another book by Ms. Harper (she said tongue in cheek).
Anyway, if fun is all you’re after then HOT by Julia Harper will give you that. I think some discerning readers will probably be disappointed. I didn’t hate the book but I don’t do light and fluff. If you don’t care for the h/h spending a lot of time apart then you’ll be disappointed. Color me surprised to learn that Yoda and Sponge Bob warranted a chapter or three with dialogue straight out of a Bill and Ted movie. A lot of the slapstick and silliness was absurd.
Also, I didn’t like the fact that Ms. Harper allowed law abiding citizens to take justice into their own hands without the corresponding consequences but what fun would that be? This novel’s goal was aiming more for “fun” without any regard to “reality” and that just doesn’t work for me but it may work for you. My grade, an unenthusiastic C.
[tags]Julia Harper, Contemporary Romance Review, Revenge[/tags]