Heartbreaker by Julie Garwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am very late to be reading one of Julie Garwood's romantic suspense, especially since I consider her one of my favorite authors, and I love her historicals. Honestly, I had my pout on because she doesn't write historicals anymore, and I just never got around to reading the contemporaries, although I planned to do so at some juncture. I am glad I finally got that nudge from the Julie Garwood group on Goodreads, because what most of what I love about her historical book is here in Heartbreaker. The main difference is the contemporary setting, the subject matter being much darker, and more emphasis on the suspense. That is as it should be, of course.
As far as characterizations, as usual, I loved the main characters. Laurant has both the sweetness and determination of the usual JG historical heroine. I like that she's a very nice woman, but strong and stands up for herself. She really earned my respect that she fought past her fears and took personal responsibility of helping the FBI draw out the killer who was stalking her. And she was very afraid. But she didn't want any more women to die in the meantime. She was brave enough to admit she fell in love with Nick, even knowing that chances were against them working out. I also loved Nick. He is the strong, solid hero that JG writes so well. He also expresses the bewilderment that cracks me up about JG's heroes when he falls so hard for Laurant, despite his determination not to do so. It was hilarious how he acted when Laurant told him she loved him. He was determined not to believe her because he was afraid to acknowledge that he loved her back. I think his gesture at the end was perfect, considering how petrified he was about flying.
If you've read enough of my reviews, you know I am not a big fan of the serial killer theme, so I won't beat a dead horse. I do have to say that the villain in this book was pretty darn nasty, and Garwood surprised me at who it was. I had gone through my list of suspects and the culprit was not who I expected. She did a good job with the red herrings, where you couldn't immediately pick out the bad guy. I'm glad she wasn't too descriptive with the acts of the killer. That is a real turnoff for me. I had enough information to realize he was a sick puppy, and that was good for me. I felt terrible for his victim. The poor girl never got a chance to make a good life for herself.
I also loved the secondary characters like Tommy, Laurant's brother, Noah, an FBI colleague of Nick's who is absolutely shameless, and the inhabitants of the small town of Holy Oaks. I would love to see more of Tommy because he's a sweet guy. And Noah is definitely a character I want to follow. He made me laugh a lot! Garwood's homey storytelling was evident in the interactions between her main characters and the supporting ones. I laughed a lot and it tempered the disgust and fear the villain engenders. The climax was very exciting. The sense of risk very evident. I loved how Laurant thought on her feet, despite her desperate situation. The villain was suitably dangerous, definitely not a paper tiger. I was glad they got him, and although it wasn't without cost, things worked out well. And I was able to see how much Nick cared about Laurant, despite his determination to walk away. He tickled me at how he was acting in the emergency room!
With a combination of Julie Garwood's singular romance writing and intense suspense, Heartbreaker is a very good book. I can't give it five stars because it doesn't quite measure up to her historicals and like I said, the serial killer theme isn't a favorite of mine. But despite those things, I enjoyed reading it and I am glad to find more Julie Garwood characters to follow. Looking forward to diving into Mercy next, as soon as I am able to find a copy and have time to read it!
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