Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Burn by Linda Howard

Title: Burn
Author: Linda Howard

Type: Romantic Suspense
Published: 2009

Blurb: Money certainly changes Jenner Redwine’s life when she wins a lottery jackpot. But it also costs her plenty: Her father rips her off and disappears, her fortune-hunting boyfriend soon becomes her ex, and friends-turned-freeloaders give her the cold shoulder when she stops paying for everything.

Flush with new money, Jenner can’t imagine ever finding a place in the world of the wealthy. Seven years later, though, she’s rubbing elbows with the rich, despite the fact she still feels like a party crasher. Luckily she finds an ally–and a guide to the rarefied realm of privilege–in shy, kind-hearted heiress Sydney Hazlett, who quickly becomes Jenner’s confidante and surrogate sister.

When Sydney invites Jenner on a charity cruise aboard a luxury liner, Jenner reluctantly agrees. But while she’s expecting–and dreading–two weeks of masquerade balls, art auctions, and preening glitterati, what she gets is more like a Hitchcock movie than a Love Boat episode. Taken hostage by a menacing stranger, Jenner must cooperate in a mysterious cloak-and-dagger scheme–or else. With nowhere to run, and with Sydney’s life as well as her own at risk, Jenner is drawn into a game of dizzying intrigue and harrowing danger. But as her panic gives way to exhilaration, and fear of her captor turns to fascination, Jennerrediscovers feelings she hasn’t had in years–and realizes she’s found a life worth living. If she survives.

Why: Howard accounts for a couple of my pivotal reading moments. Hers were the first mercenary bad men heroes that stole my breath (All The Queen's Men) and, in Cry No More, Howard snuck by my ban on story arcs featuring children and sucker punched me right in my emotional gut. She had me, both times.

Not so much anymore. Her recent titles have lacked the same edginess, the same brutal choices. In their place I've found straight-up (read simple) contemporaries with some fairly bland characters. After reading Burn, I suspect even Howard finds them bland, with not much to say and little on their mind.

Thoughts: Of all Burn's characters, the heroine, Jenner, carried the most flesh and bone. We learn a good deal from her--privy to her life on the job and among friends and family early in the book--as opposed to learning about her from author info dumps. That fleshing out is short-lived however when Howard essentially summarizes her life post-lottery winnings. Howard tells us that Jenner runs in priveleged circles now and enjoys snorkeling, parasailing and an assortment of self-indulgent classes on cooking, knitting and whatnot. Howard also tells us that Jenner has found a friend in sweet but sheltered Sydney, a naive princess born to this rich set. When Sydney's life is threatened, it is Howard's assertion that Jenner is protective enough of Sydney to comply with their kidnapper's demands that propels the story forward. Whether the reader believes it or not. As there were few scenes and little dialogue between these two, I took Howard at her word and read on.

Conversely, the hero, Cael, comes into the story via author info dump and gets to wait until later to show himself to readers. I hung in there long enough to appreciate his humor--firsthand thankfully--and his physical presence. Neither of which, unfortunately, grabbed me. I did enjoy a handful of scenes between him and Jenner, but just when I was looking forward to getting back to their stateroom for more banter, Howard would fast forward to the next day or shift focus to other characters and never come back to this place in time. I swear it was like she didn't care; like the romance didn't grab her either.

The remaining characters--villain aside--make up Cael's "team." Not much more detail than that and Howard doesn't spend any more time hanging flesh on them than she does Cael and Jenner. Disappointing. Particularly when I'm a reader easily snagged into a good police procedural or military op storyline, characterization be damned. This team's surveillance of the villain wasn't all that interesting and none of these folks ever really felt in danger. Heck, when Cael and Jenner are caught following the villain, their dispatch of the bodyguard warranted only a few paragraphs. Howard didn't deign it necessary for Cael to involve his team nor did she give Jenner enough words to deal with her actions. Like I said, I really, really can't help but think Howard was bored, as uninterested in this story as I was when I read it.

As for the action, I'll admit that my reading could hardly even be called skimming by the time we got there. So I can't honestly say how it was executed. I did look through it all for moments between hero and heroine, but nothing grabbed me. Not even the moments I found with Cael and Jenner.

So my disappointment was complete. And no fault of my own. It wasn't a mood thing or a lack of time or a tiring of romantic suspense or...anything. This one just fell flat for me. I got as far as I did only because this was a Linda Howard book--and she ranks for me--and because Nath's post last week sent me in search of a typical Howard alpha (and for a brief time, I found at least an outline of him).

Howard has a new title (Ice) out (already) in November. It's premise sounds much more promising and I'm off to see if my library has it on order. Burn may have disappointed, but I'm no where near ready to give up on Howard yet.


  1. Great review, Jen :D I think I enjoyed it more than you, but I did think the book was a bit thin and could have been more. Cael was quite uni-dimensional and there were too many secondary characters in my opinion.

  2. I've found that her books have started to be awfully formulaic for me, which really sucks since they started with such a bang for me.

    I'm sorry this one didn't work for you. But glad that you read it first so I know not to go there at least until PB. Heh.

  3. Formulaic, yep. I'll preview Ice for you too Lori. :-)

    And totally agree Nath. Your review prompted me to pick it up and I found a bit of what you talked about (thank you!). It's just that overall, it didn't do it for me.

  4. I'm glad that my review prompted you to pick it up :D At least, it's out of the way now, right? :)


Have you read it? What do you think?

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