Synopsis: Called to Mission Creek to help find the Lone Star Country Club bomber, Chicago Police bomb tech Hart O'Brien never imagined he'd walk straight into the arms of his first – and only – love. Body Perfect spa manager Joan Cooper had become a cool brunette with a touch-me-not attitude. But Hart HAD touched her one hot summer night ten years ago, then unexpectedly walked away, leaving Joan to deal with the consequences. When anger turns to passion for Joan and Hart, will Joan reveal her ten-year-old secret? Will Hart uncover the identity of the Lone Star bomber?
First line: What the hell am I doing here?
Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Books, 2002; purchased at a library book sale.
My thoughts: I love category romances, but some of the covers make me cringe. This is one of those covers. She looks like she's trying to feel him up through his pocket. And he doesn't look especially impressed with her effort.
Cover photo aside, the characters are much more likable than they appear. Ten years ago Joan was the spoiled little rich girl, while Hart was a groundskeeper at the country club. After a summer of her pursuing him, they finally had their perfect night together (even though she was a virgin – I never did get how the first time could ever be perfect but maybe my first time was an anomaly?), and then they never saw each other again. Hart was accused of stealing money from the club and threatened with his mother being arrested on an old warrant, and so he and his mother blew out of town to start over elsewhere. By the time they were settled and he was ready to get back in touch with Joan, he learned from one of his friends that she had gone off to Dallas and married a hotshot attorney.
Now Hart is back in town to investigate a bombing at the country club, and Joan is working and living in close proximity. He's still angry that after their night together she just forgot about him and married someone else. She's still angry that after their night together he just took off and disappeared. She has a daughter, Helena, who everyone believes is a product of her quick marriage, and she's determined that Hart not find out the truth. Because she's afraid he'll tell Helena he loves her, like he told Joan, and then up and disappear again, breaking Helena's heart, like he did Joan's.
I liked Joan, and I really liked Hart, and I loved Helena. She takes to her mom's “old friend” like a duck to water, following him around the club and pestering him with questions, which he patiently answers.
In the meantime, while Hart and Joan realize they're still hung up on each other (not that they admit that to each other), his investigation is in full swing. There is also a rival for his affections, and plenty of bad guys. In fact, everyone seems to be a potential bad guy. And the action/suspense ramps up in the last quarter of the book to the point that I sat up in bed until midnight, even though I had to be up at six the next morning, because I didn't want to stop reading. I value my sleep, and when a book draws me in enough to make me forego sleep, it's a winner.