by Suzanne Brockmann, contemporary (2010)
Ballantine, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-345-52120-0

Infamous sees Suzanne Brockmann temporarily making a one-off stop in the romance genre amidst her ongoing excursions in La La Land with her Troubleshooters series. Well, I labeled this book as a contemporary romance, but do take note that it is actually a romantic suspense with a ghost and a major back story that eclipses the romance between the main characters.

Alison Carter is a professor who wrote a book on the life of the popular Wild West cowboy hero, Marshal Silas Quinn. When the story opens, she is a consultant for the movie based on Quinn's life. However, sparks fly when she meets AJ Gallagher, the great-grandson of the man pegged as Quinn's nemesis, Jamie Gallagher. AJ wants to set the record straight: Silas Quinn was a corrupt SOB who beat his wife Melody - Melody wasn't killed by Jamie; she fell in love with Jamie and ran off with him, and Quinn certainly didn't kill Jamie to avenge Melody's death. Instead, Jamie and Melody eventually settled down and began a family in Alaska. Jamie was long-lived indeed; AJ was ten when the man finally expired. But now his ghost visits AJ and asks AJ to set history straight when he's not matchmaking AJ with Alison.

Meanwhile, someone wants Alison dead, it seems, and there is a dead body. AJ is a former action hero with a history of alcoholism and mental illness. As I turn the pages, the author also has Jamie telling his story and offering his views on everything and anything when she's not offering snippets from Melody's journal. Of course, the author also takes advantage of the opportunity to tell me that gay men need TLC too, war is bad (rather ironic considering that the selling point of her books are men who specialize in boom-boom-bang), alcoholism is a genetic disease, mental illness is best combated with a healthy dose of love and understanding, and respect the kitchen sink in the universe of everything.

As you can imagine, something has got to give in a story this busy, and that something has to be the romance between Alison and AJ. Let me put this way: these two are still having the same conversation they had back in page 34 one hundred pages later. AJ, for a hero, is actually overshadowed by the ghost of Jamie because Jamie is the one telling AJ what to do and poor AJ ends up being the mentally messed-up guy who does everything Jamie tells him to. Alison barely has any personality here. She spends the whole story waffling over whether she can trust AJ when she's not in contrived situations like getting her shirt wet and letting AJ enjoy the view or needing to be rescued.

Jamie, the author's standard Real Men Cry Buckets character, actually has a pretty good back story going, and I suspect that Infamous would have been better off being a straightforward historical romance featuring Jamie and Melody. Because this book is what it is, however, Infamous is a grossly unfocused story that is all over the place without actually going anywhere. To add insult to the injury, I'd swear that the epilogue is, er, heavily inspired by the epilogue from Heartthrob.

Since Ms Brockmann seems to have done her best to obfuscate any sign of romance in this story, I can only wonder why this story is even published in the first place. This will be one of the greatest mysteries of the universe, no doubt.

Rating: 47

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