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Book Review: Slow Burn

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Slow Burn is one of those often uneasy mixtures of the conventions of traditional romance novels with contemporary sensibilities. On occasion, such novels and their requisite battle of the sexes work quite well (often when played for laughs). Here, however, it simply isn’t quite the explosive combination that author Julie Garwood was obviously hoping for.

Kate MacKenna is the young owner of a successful business involving the sale of scented candles, soaps, and lotions. She started the business while in high school, and her mother had helped her set it up. Kate and her sisters have only recently buried their mother, as she finally succumbed to a lengthy illness. It is only in the wake of her mother’s death that Kate discovers that her mother used the business as collateral for a large loan – a loan which is coming due in just a few weeks.

Kate arrives early to a reception at a friend’s estate, and is nearly killed in an explosion (her bra was partially responsible for saving her life, but for more on how, you really ought to read the book). It turns out that the explosion was centered right near the table where Kate was supposed to sit, and police worry that Kate has been targeted by a mysterious bomber called “The Florist.” And no, while that could have been the launching pad for a comic caper, Garwood doesn’t bite and instead insists on playing it straight (more’s the pity, really).

Kate ends up traveling to Boston to visit a friend named Jordan (Jordan is a Buchanan, and she is related to the characters found in some of Garwood’s other books). While there, Kate has a one-night stand with Jordan’s brother Dylan, a Boston cop. She flees Boston in embarrassment and returns home to another attempt on her life. At this point, Dylan comes after her, they discover she stands to inherit millions from a malicious uncle she never knew existed, and plenty of romantic hijinks ensue. Well, okay, one or two hijinks; in general, the plot plods along and Garwood doesn’t use the absurdities of her storyline to her advantage.

The characterizations of Garwood’s protagonists seem to vary from scene to scene; one moment knowing, another naive. The two storylines involving the loan to her mother and then the mysterious inheritance from the sinister uncle play out in a somewhat uneven counterpoint to one another. Perhaps Garwood meant to create the impression that they were related, but if so the narrative is too disjointed to really ever suspect that the people who may have forged security documents might have a reason to want Kate dead. Further, the romantic banter between the two leads seems somewhat forced and artificial, and not all that funny. It’s not really to say that Slow Burn a fundamentally bad romantic thriller, but perhaps that it is little more than a pedestrian one.

Author’s Note: This article was originally posted at Wallo World.

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