If You Just Say Yes
by Reon Laudat, contemporary (2005)
St Martin's Press, $6.99, ISBN 0-312-93363-0


I have found Reon Laudat's romantic comedies in the past most enjoyable but If You Just Say Yes, which has a romantic suspense tinge to it, is less successful with me. It's a typical story when it comes to the flaws of a romantic suspense novel: If You Just Say Yes comes off as a book where the investigative elements distract from the romance and vice-versa. What saves this book is how the characters are intelligent folks who have great sexual chemistry between them.

Falsely accused by the wife of a millionaire of sleeping with this man, our journalist heroine Michelle Michaels (hmm, nothing to do with former ER actress Michael Michelle, I think) is reassigned from the Manhattan Business Journal to - eeeuw - Detroit Herald, which she views as a lesser paper and hence a demotion from her previous position. So it's back to Detroit she goes. What I like about Michelle is how she doesn't start wailing and acting like a victim in this situation. She instead decides to work her way back up and prove to her editor Larry Morgan that she is innocent of any wrongdoing with Stanford Chapelle (who is, after all, old enough to be her grandfather, or in other romance novels if Stanford is unmarried, gay, or impotent, prime unappreciated first husband material). All she needs to do is to be very good in her job and also be very good in her behavior. Her family is a prominent one in Detroit so in a way this is a homecoming for her.

Alas, what Michelle is stuck with in Detroit is not some Pulitzer-worthy scoop but coverage of a local kiddie act. Ugh. So the last thing Michelle needs is to tangle with Wesley Abbott, a handsome investigative journalist at her new workplace. While he tempts her determination to be good and stay out of potentially scandalous scenes that can taint her image further, what is even worse for Michelle is Wesley and her being involved in investigating a potential case of legal corruption that turns out to involve her family. The usual issues of trust and love will have be confronted and addressed before these two can meet each other halfway.

While the both of them adore jazz, Wesley is the love-'em-leave-'em type while Michelle is the guarded type. What I like is how these two characters go beyond superficial stereotypes. Wesley tires of meaningless casual flings and is ready for something more substantial and meaningful but at the same time he doesn't find it easy to handle the obligations that come with such a relationship. Still, he's willing to try if Michelle will let him into her life. Michelle has a history of ending up with the wrong kind of men but she doesn't warp into some professional victim or unrealistic man-hating stereotype. Also, in this case, she has a good reason to try and keep Wesley away from her. Sparks that are already flying positively burn when they end up working together in close proximity. Ms Laudat has always been good in portraying relationships where the hero and the heroine cooperate towards a common goal, be that the bedroom or for justice, and here she is at the top of her game. Michelle and Wesley come off as well-written characters confronting realistic issues in a credible manner when their personal and professional lives clash.

What doesn't work so well is the investigative elements in the story, which tends to flow less smoothly than the author's scenes of relationships and drama. The mystery is kept in the background when Wesley and Michelle are building their relationship only to surface to the forefront later on in the story. While the mystery in itself is not bad at all, especially since it brings out depths in the characterization of Wesley and Michelle, the build-up is slow to happen and the denouement feels rushed. Still, I don't really have much objections to that since I'm enjoying the romance and any good suspense subplot will only be icing on the cake. Romantic suspense fans may feel differently though.

So, despite having some balancing issues between romance and suspense, this book has me saying for the third time to Ms Laudat, "Yes!" Dang.

Rating: 84


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