Deception
by Selena Montgomery, contemporary (2009)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-137605-4


Selena Montgomery's Deception is the second book in a series, following last year's Reckless. I'd strongly recommend that you read the previous book first, because the plot in this story carries over from that in the previous book. While the hero and the heroine are meeting for the first time, they each have preexisting relationships with the secondary characters in this story. You can read this one without having read the previous book, but you will have to be patient then as the author only begins to clue new readers in on what happened previously at around page 100.

Also, I won't be able to avoid spoiling the previous book in my synopsis of this book, so you know what to do if you want to read the previous book without being spoiled.

Okay, where we left off, we have one bad guy on the run, and we know he works for this syndicate called Stark. Stark is a pretty successful criminal enterprise for one that is manned by inept morons, if we are to judge by the sorry parade of villains in the two books so far in this series, having its fingerprints all over shady businesses like drug trafficking rings, illegal gambling rackets, and such. The heroine of the previous book, Kell, has summoned her two childhood friends back home to Hallden County, Georgia. This is because the three women share a secret: they had crossed paths with Stark before when they were teenagers staying at the orphanage run by Mrs Eliza Faraday, and this incident ended with them believing that they had killed a man. They also absconded with a large amount of money. Now with Stark hot on their heels, they can only wonder whether their past had caught up with them. Of course, there is more than meets the eye, but I'd let you read the story yourself if you want to find out more, heh. Seriously, I'd recommend that you read the previous book first in order to make it easier for you to figure out what is going on in this book.

This story is Findley "Fin" Borders's story. Fin had since grown up to become a professional gambler who had made it big, winning big and living the high life. She didn't always have it easy in life, so she also knows how to shoot and do a few other things one had to know in order to survive on the streets. When she catches up with Kell and Julia, therefore, she turns out to be a pretty kick-ass heroine who can give our hero, FBI agent Caleb Matthews, a pretty good run for his money. Caleb has his own personal agenda to take down Stark, but his boss has given him an ultimatum. Caleb has three weeks to clean up whatever mess that is left in Hallden before Caleb finds himself reassigned to some other case.

Caleb isn't a particularly memorable hero. Sure, he's nice and capable now and then, but he also comes off too much like a generic FBI agent hero. Fin, on the other hand, is a fun heroine. She's no damsel in distress - in fact, she's the one who uses a gun to save the day early in the story when they are shot at by the bad guys. I also love that she is not afraid to be attracted to man and explore the possibilities between them. Fin is a fun heroine without some contrived sexual neuroses one can typically find in romance heroines.

The story may boast a likable couple but it also bogged down by a suspense plot that doesn't always make sense. Let me use an example that takes place early in the story. The good guys are all in a vehicle, leaving the airport, when they cross paths with some hired goons who start shooting at them. When the whole messy business is over, our hero and his sheriff buddy proceed to leave our three women alone to travel to the orphanage, because apparently we need two strong big men to make sure that a critically injured criminal will not somehow make his way to Canada or something. The two men know that the bad guys are aware that the three women are in town and that these bad guys want the women dead. They know someone in the department is leaking out information to the bad guys. And yet, they both go and watch over a guy who is not going anywhere soon. Oi vey. Are you shocked when the three women and Mrs Faraday then get a threatening phone call at the orphanage? The two men are lucky that the bad guys are morons who resorted to a phone call when they could have easily, I don't know, put a bomb in the orphanage or something,

This brings me to a pretty critical flaw in this book: the bad guys suffer from the Scooby-Doo villain syndrome. As I've mentioned, they waste their time making threatening phone calls when they could be doing something more productive, like, oh, actually trying to kill the heroines, perhaps. Also, it is very easy to spot the bad guys here. Just look out for any secondary character who behaves in a disagreeable manner or doesn't look like a Hollywood luminary. That's the bad guy!

I like the main characters in Deception, but I'm afraid the romantic suspense elements of the story don't cut it where I am concerned.

Rating: 71


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