by Laine Morgan, contemporary (2006)
New Concepts Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 1-58608-874-2
While the title of this story, Criminal Intent suggests that it is a romantic suspense, this story is actually a little bit different from the many romantic suspense novels out there because this one is set in the Beachside Memorial Hospital. The hero Connor McKendrick is the Director of Radiology while the heroine Emily West is a student radiologist. Given how popular the TV show Grey's Anatomy is, it seems a shame for the author and the publisher to hide its more marketable features with a generic romantic suspense title. By the way, Emily is thirty while Connor is a few years older, so this is not some story of a skeevy ancient geezer acting all horny-toad crazy on a young woman thingie in case you're wondering.
Emily lost her husband in an accident and she still has some difficulties mustering the stoic demeanor called for in the ER. However, she shows promise according the staff at the Hospital and there is a very good chance that she'll be asked to stay next year after she graduates. Emily has a crush on the handsome Connor but he seems to have this aversion to getting involved with women who work in the same industry as he does. In an event that could have come out straight from that TV show ER, Emily encounters a strange prison inmate, Daniel, who keeps finding excuses to show up - escorted, of course - to the Hospital. Daniel seems very keen to meet her and he hints that he knows her husband. What is going on here? Predictably, Daniel will eventually manage to produce a gun and that's when the bang-bang-bang fun begins.
Reading Criminal Intent makes me smile because I can't help thinking back of my days as a student like Emily trying to get used to the hustle and bustle of a very busy hospital. I wish I've encountered some handsome doctor that I could fall in love back then though, heh. Laine Morgan's depiction of the bustle is pretty credible. I also like Emily whose insecurities feel real. Likewise, how she realistically finds a way to deal with them is nicely done. Emily comes off as a likeable character with a sensible head on her shoulders. Connor is more of a stereotypical broody loner hero, only this time he's a radiologist rather than a sheriff or a secret agent. Still, his interactions with Emily are very nicely depicted without their attraction coming off as too unprofessional or skeevy.
Unfortunately, it is after these two people have sex that things fall apart drastically quickly. Connor's insecurities about love and all aren't anything new - just think of unhappily married/gratefully divorced parents - but he has me muttering, "You've got to be kidding me, asshole!" when he decides that there is no chance that he and Emily can have any relationship together because he thinks so after they've done the deed. I don't know about anyone else but if a guy pulls that excuse on me after leading me on to believe that we're going somewhere from the bedroom, he's getting his butt royally kicked by me. If not for being an idiot who can't come up with a credible excuse to ditch me without insulting my intelligence, the guy will still have a royal asskicking coming for him for having no sense of timing. I then see red when he announces that he's going to pull strings and make his father (who's on the Hospital board) transfer her to some other medical establishment. Forget the asskicking, I'm going to take an electric stone drill and really go medieval on his ass. What kind of cowardly jerk is this?
From that point, the romance never fully recovers. Daniel goes wild, Emily is in danger (please don't tell me I'm spoiling the story for you - I'm sure you see this development coming the moment I mention Daniel in this review), and she does something pretty stupid at the last moment so that Connor will come to her rescue. After that, those two decide that they're in love and the story quickly ends there and then. No addressing the issues between those two? No confirmation of Connor's testicles finally descending? The "true love" resolution of this story isn't convincing to me - I suspect that it's adrenaline rather than the heart that coaxes forth the declarations of true love and what not from Connor.
Criminal Intent has a nice set-up but I'm afraid the story taking a more dramatic turn after Connor turns into an irritating twit prevents the internal conflicts in the romance from being resolved in a convincing manner. A few more chapters where Connor addresses his insecurities - a visit to a shrink won't hurt - would have improved matters.
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