Heartbreaker
by Julie Garwood, contemporary (2000)
Pocket, $24.95, 0-671-03299-2


When a romance author decides to break new ground, why is it that she/he always inevitably either writes about (a) serial killer running amok in town while our cop hero and victim heroine snog, or (b) three or four female friends with men and family problems? Ms Garwood too breaks new grounds by choosing route (a).

Not that it's a Walt Disney cartoon about serial killers like I feared. Indeed, Heartbreaker is entertaining and the romance ain't too bad. The hero is strong and charismatic, and the heroine's... er, she's there.

Upon hearing a confession from Mr Heartbreaker about his upcoming plans to literally break the heart of a Laurant Madden, the priest's younger sister, the priest in question runs off to seek help from hunky FBI cop-stud Nick Buchanan. Nick decides to move in with Laurant for 24-hour surveillance, and soon their house play becomes a bit too real for comfort.

Complications abound with Nick facing problems from a dumb superior and Laurant sulking because she can't save the world. The drama and tension is skilfully put. Who's the Heartbreaker? I have my guesses, but they keep changing with the turning of the pages.

And Nick is surely a hunk indeed. Larger than life, befuddled yet turned on by his attraction to Laurant, he displays the territorial/possessive traits of a sexy dangerous romance hero yet at the same time he is as nice and reliable as they come. Nick is a wonderful and irresistible hero that makes my grade anytime, any day.

It's just too bad that Laurant is, well - I shall refrain from going off into a rant, but why is it that while hero can have fun, a heroine must have a gazillion baggages and ten million reasons to live for every one of the hero's? She's from a broken home, she is afraid of relationships, she is afraid of not belonging, she's terrified of belonging if it means she may be un-belonged and rejected any day now, and she also wants to save the world by becoming bait to Heartbreaker. And when she finally runs headlong into danger in a really Stupid Act that puts her in the Hall of Fame, right up there with Joan of Arc's willing burning, she almost make me put the book down in disgust. Give me a heroine who isn't afraid to admit that she can't save the world and she doesn't need to and I'll read happy.

And the goody-woody secondary characters are strictly one-dimensional Walt Disney caricatures of ineptness or eccentricities, which provides comic relief, but I can't help wishing they display more substance.

So, how does Heartbreaker fare with me? It's good. It doesn't break new ground as much as the publisher would like me to believe, but it is a welcome read of romantic suspense with a hero right out of the Great Catch market. Now, if only the heroine could measure up.

Rating: 84


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