Thursday, June 2, 2011

You Can Run But There's No Place To Hide . . . "Play Dirty" by Lorie O'Clare

Heartthrob bounty hunter Greg King knows how to work it—and he knows that he can have any woman he wants. But there’s more to Greg than meets the eye…and he’s still haunted by the memory of his beautiful, estranged wife. Much as he’s tried to move on, he’s never been able to stop wondering why Haley left him. Or what he could have done to make their marriage better—and make her stay…

After putting a vicious criminal behind bars, Haley King had no choice but to leave her loved ones behind and enter the witness protection program. Turns out that, in her new life, Haley has once again found herself in serious trouble—and needs help from the only person she can trust: her husband. Now, as old secrets threaten to tear them apart and danger closes in from all sides, it’s up to Greg to keep Haley safe…and convince her that this time, he’s playing for keeps.

Greg & Haley King have been married a very long time. But the last six years of their marriage have been hell. Not only that, they have been totally out of touch with one another due to the fact that Mrs. King has been living under an assumed name in the Witness Protection Program. So Greg and their two sons, Marc and Jake, have been busy moving forward with their business as bounty hunters, but Greg's personal life has been on hold. The relationship between these two very serious people forms the underpining of this novel and provides the sexual tension that keeps the interest level so high. Add in the fact that this is a mystery/suspense/action novel complete with international players and unfriendly foreign law enforcement personnel, and you have a novel that is edgy, with very sharp and rough characters, and lots of unanswered questions.

I have to take issue with the publisher's blurb as to Greg's puzzlement over his wife's leaving. He knew why she did it. That he disagreed with her decision is never in doubt. But the curious factor here is that for neither one of them did time or space ever dilute their emotional intensity or their certainty that the other was the only person they could ever love with this kind of intensity. Yet while those six years apart did not dilute their love for one another, it did bring about some serious changes in both these people and in their sons. Haley missed out on the last years of her sons' maturation process and when she came home, they were no longer boys. She also made some important discoveries about her professional abilities and about the role she was prepared to resume in the marriage if ever they could be together again. For Greg, these years were misery personified, and for a man who was the quintessential Alpha male, he came to a point where he had to accept that being willing to accept Haley as she was did not mean that he was weak or inept. Learning to give as well as take, to cooperate rather than always having to be in command was a journey of discovery for this talented and able individual.

This novel is really about how two people learned some important lessons about themselves and then faced the challenge of integrating those changes into a relationship neither was willing to give up. Greg faced a woman who was no longer satisfied to be at his beck and call, putting aside her opinions and thoughts, allowing him to set the pace of their lives. Now Haley knew that she was good at her profession, knew how to investigate with the best of them, could handle herself in a crisis, and wanted to be Greg's partner, not just "the little woman." Quite a change for this hunky guy to absorb. His challenge: keeping his wife and his marriage, but having to accept this person who was almost like a stranger in many ways.

Haley's challenge was patience--she knew Greg's strengths and she was also aware that he had a gentle side that he didn't want anyone to see. She needed him to show it to her and to be comfortable doing so. That she loved him more than anyone else on the planet gave her the strength to go after him and to insist that he find these deeper strengths within himself.

I really liked the mystery/suspense/action aspect of this novel. I know that for many this was not a plus and the wide range and number of background characters was confusing for some, but I think that is the kind of story this author writes. It seems that she really functions on many levels and her stories reflect the fact that she "digs" complicated, multi-layered, heavily populated novels and this one certainly is that kind of novel. I appreciated that quality as I get a little irritated and impatient at the simplistic stories. That is not to say that there aren't times when I just want to indulge in romantic fiction that is a boy-meets-girl-and-they-fall-in-love-and-live-happily-ever-after kind of novel. This is not one of those, and if that is what the reader is seeking, lots of luck. Not here, and not often with Lorie O'Clare. For those of us who are looking for the deeper and more challenging reading experience, this is more to my taste.

I first encountered this author through her paranormal romances and reviewed two of those for The Book Binge and found them to be fine reading experiences. This novel is a new direction for me and one that I have enjoyed a great deal. I am looking forward to the next book in this series. I give this a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

1 comment:

Tracy said...

I've really liked some O'Clare that I've read in the past. I'll have to check this one out, thanks.