Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Romantic Mystery Review: 'Wounded' by Lindsay Buroker

The author describes this as a rom-com, and that's as good a description as any. It's superficially an action mystery, but the romance is the core of it and also the part that works most effectively. If I tell you that the mystery part involves ruthless and evil - erm, mushroom researchers who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on a particularly rare specimen which will cure antibiotic resistent TB, you'll probably get the point.

The plot (such as it is) involves heroine Tara making a temporary stay at an eco-village to produce blog material for a local newspaper. She arrives in the middle of a dispute with a neighbour involving escaped pigs and decapitated chickens. The neighbour, naturally, is a hunky heap of muscular maleness, called Malcolm (after the Scottish king; hurray for Scottish kings!). Tara manages to exploit her blogging and website building skills to impress said hunky heap, but thereby finds herself sucked into the ongoing adventures, which involves much racing around hillsides in the dark, climbing out of bathroom windows and the like, while the hunky heap manages to get his shirt off at frequent intervals.

All this is fun if not terribly surprising. Nor is Tara herself a particularly plausible character. Although she's smart enough to set up websites in the blink of an eye, she's apparently not smart enough to bring along anything useful on a police-evading night-time chase, even when she stops at her own house along the way. Plus she trips over every tree-root in the state, seemingly, and ends up face down in the mud. I have to confess, I like just a tad more competence in a main character.

As for the hunky heap, he's got demons from his past to deal with, and, wouldn't you just know it, the climax of the book involves him having to face up to those demons. I realise there's a school of thought that requires characters to move forwards during the course of the story, making visible progress in the demons department, but frankly this was all just too contrived for my liking. A little more subtlety would have helped.

On the other side of the coin, the romance works really well. The banter between the two main characters is brilliant, and there are some very funny moments along the way. It amuses me to consider the research the author must have carried out for this book, covering (among other things) hallucinogenic mushrooms, pipe bombs and the feasibility of operating a mobile phone using only your nose (and I'd have paid good money to watch the experimentation on that one). Apart from Tara's tree-root incompetence, the two main characters are well drawn. The gradual inching from deep suspicion through grudging tolerance to tentative trust and the inevitable romantic entanglement is perfectly judged, and completely credible. For anyone who likes their romance sweet rather than hot, with plenty of light-hearted action and a great big dollop of humour, this is ideal. Three stars.

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