All Because Of You
by Bridget Anderson, contemporary (2002)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-332-7

Vanessa Benton's colleague, Christopher Harris, has just committed suicide. Or is it really suicide? As the police, led by Detective Eric Daniels, start to probe the case, she begins to worry, especially when Chris' secrets start coming out faster than the skeletons in R Kelly's closet. What is more worrying is that since both Van and Chris work on the same accounts in their firm, her own paw prints can easily be found all over on what seems like Chris' embezzlement schemes. Will she be implicated as the (unwary) accomplice?

And what does Eric want to probe more, the case or the witness? Hmm.

Yes, this is one strange story where nobody seems to blink an eye at a cop getting a bit too close to a person he is interrogating for his own good. You could argue that since Van is a willing witness and she even works with Eric to investigate matters, she is technically more his accomplice rather than someone in his custody. Still, when Eric's baggage involves his guilt over his affair with a woman in his custody in his past (that resulted in her death), I do wonder. Maybe in Atlanta, the police are very friendly people.

But that's not really that big a problem. I really like All Because Of You a lot, because it's just right. Van and Eric don't get intimate in this story - except for a heated kiss - rather, they are only getting started once the mystery is solved. I like this story better this way, because there's no forced "Sex! Sex! Now that's romance!" nonsense to insult my intelligence. Ms Anderson has managed to have Van and Eric's relationship unfurl at a pace that seems just perfect: they learn more about each other and in the process, become friends and fellow investigators, and baby, they're just getting started. I like these two people, and while the ending leaves me smiling, I actually wish the author will start a series of books about these two. Now that's something I thought I would never find myself wishing, but not many books make me hear the theme songs of Remington Steele in my head either.

The mystery is also pretty well-done. There's nothing extraordinary about the mystery, really, but it develops nicely in tandem with the romance, neither one overwhelming the other. Along the way, Van and Eric's clichéd baggages (don't trust the opposite sex anymore, et cetera) actually get pushed to the background - how nice - in place of the two people's developing respect and friendship.

All in all, All Because Of You is a balm after all the crapioli books that have come my way recently. When I finish this book, I realize that wa-hey, I'm actually... happy! No high blood pressure, no throbbing headaches from stupid heroines and jerk heroes and dumbass plots, just this nice humming feeling I get after reading a good book. I have almost forgotten how that feels like, so yeah, All Because Of You is definitely cool with me. Two thumbs up!

Rating: 89

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