Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Remain Silent by Jamie Denton

Title: Remain Silent
Author: Jamie Denton

Publisher: Kensington Brava
Type: Romantic Suspense
Series: No

Why: A blogger turned me on to Denton’s The Matchmaker last year. It was a fabulous read and I promptly added Denton to my must-read list. Remain Silent is her newest release.

Laurel Jennings may be an expert at art restoration, but she’s a novice at the justice system. When her business partner Jonathan Linton is found dead and she’s charged with the brutal murder, she needs help – fast. But with the powerful Linton family wielding their vengeful influence, the only lawyer willing to represent her is her former lover.

Damon walked away from the L.A. County DA’s office when his star witness in an infamous drug lord’s trial was gunned down on her way to protective custody. Protecting Laurel is Damon’s first priority – even if she has made it clear he’s the last man she wants representing her.

A chance discovery throws Damon and Laurel into a conspiracy that could rock the art world to its very foundation – with deadly consequences. With only each other to turn to, Laurel and Damon find the passion that once burned between them is a dangerous risk when betrayal lies at the heart of Jonathan’s murder – and the body count keeps rising. To protect the future, and keep the past buried, Laurel and Damon will have to stay together, keep calm, and remain silent…

Comments: Came close to being a DNF. I think it was my love for The Matchmaker that kept me reading, certain I was missing something in this one, certain I’d find it around the next corner. It never came together for me.

Denton’s characterization was almost there. She gave breath to the hero, Damon, and a key secondary character, a detective. These two came to life and lent the only realism to Denton’s story. The heroine, Laurel, fell flat. Charged with the murder of her closest friend and business partner, she spends far too much time, IMO, lusting after the hero while mentally pushing him away from perceived danger. And I say perceived because Denton’s villain (one of them) is a cloak and dagger organization with government origins and ever-reaching, evil power. It was too over-the-top for this story and aside from some dangling references to their murder of Damon’s father, the mystery organization made no attempt to harm Damon or Laurel. As backstory for Laurel, this plotline failed to add depth. And instead of adding to the suspense, it confused matters and left me wondering what the hell all that had been about.

Laurel remained shallow where I think Denton intended her to be an emotionally tortured outsider. I saw passages of internal thought—likely meant to elicit sympathy—as nothing more than the whining of a self-absorbed single professional woman. In circumstances that would reduce even the strongest woman to fear-induced paralysis, Laurel naively behaves as though it is not happening to her. Only Damon understands her, only Damon can see the heart that beats beneath her cool exterior. I didn’t believe it, even when their physical chemistry and tenderness shine through the confusion. Those scenes were moving and steamy at the same time, but I was left feeling that Damon deserved better. Denton very simply failed to give me a heroine I could like or respect. I spent the whole book thinking that Laurel just didn’t get it.

The true villain was also over-the-top. We get this character’s POV throughout and it was cookie-cutter female venom. When Denton reveals that she single-handedly, easily even, murdered an international thief known for his prowess, I almost put the book down. Not only did the action fray an already weak plot, it in no way reflected the abilities or power of the villain Denton had thus far introduced. Later, when her identity is revealed, the pieces still do not fall into place. The villain, her motivation and her ability to pull any of this off remain paper-thin.

So, nothing came together and I was sorry I even bothered to work my way to the end. Where The Matchmaker was a tightly woven romantic thriller, Remain Silent was splintered beyond repair. IMO.

To Be Fair: My mindset of late has sucked. My attention span sucks and I’m irritable beyond the usual PMS excuse. Had I been in a better state of mind, Laurel may have clicked for me. And if I had liked her more, this review would have more positive thoughts on characterization to counterpoint those on its weak plot. Denton's voice is there, her writing clean. In short, just because none of it worked for me, doesn’t mean it will fail everyone else.

For what it’s worth: Denton’s backlist includes a whole slew of category titles. I’m not a big fan of categories, but will keep my eye out for some of these anyway. She wowed me with The Matchmaker and I’m sure I’ll find another gem in here somewhere. Her next Kensington Brava is Dead Stop and it’s due out in September, 2008. I’ll read that one as well.

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