Ignore the romance; Karen Rose’s series is gripping

  Romantic suspense? Not me. Mysteries, suspense, blood and guts — the gorier the better — sure, but any hint of a usually contrived “romance” element generally is enough to make me shy away. (I do read and enjoy Joyce Lamb’s romantic suspense, but she’s a longtime friend.) So when Lindsey handed me a copy of Karen Rose’s “Kill for Me,” I was less than enthusiastic.
  Then I finished “Kill for Me,” and ended up ordering the two previous books in Rose’s Daniel Vartanian series, “Die for Me” and “Scream for Me.”
  Why? Rose sure can tell a story — even if the actions of her characters tend to make the reader despair at the human condition. Dean Koontz ain’t got nothin’ on her.
  Yes, the romantic aspect of the books irritated me. Yes, it’s painfully predictable. In these three books, two of the heroes are big, strong and dark law enforcement officers from large, extremely close-knit families (one Greek, one Italian, for your average ethnic stereotyping) who rescue delicate and petite (but strong and intelligent, of course) flawed heroines from the horrors of their pasts. The other’s a big, strong and blond law enforcement officer from an extremely dysfunctional family who rescues the delicate and tall (but strong and intelligent, of course) flawed heroine from the horrors of her past.
  See a pattern there? And stereotyping isn’t the least of it; there’s a little of an incestuous nature as well, since one hero (big, strong and blond) is the brother of the heroine of another book (delicate and petite but strong and intelligent), who hooks up with his best friend, one of the big, strong and dark heroes.
  But yes, I still ordered the first two books in the series. Why? Well, for one thing, “Kill for Me” was a little confusing at first. Rose packs an inordinate amount of action into the 500-plus (in paperback) pages of her books. Thus, the recap of not one but two previous tomes in the third of the series (so the reader could catch up with the continuing story lines) had to be condensed considerably, which made things a little hard to figure out.
  Plus, considering the horrific actions (this is a good thing) of the characters in “Kill for Me,” I wanted to find out just what their predecessors, in some cases relatives, had done in the first two books.
  I wasn’t disappointed. The romantic aspects of Rose’s books may be predictable, but the suspenseful ones are anything but. The roller coaster is an oft-used cliche in book reviews, but it’s apt in this case. Rose knows how to keep the reader guessing and to introduce plot twists that are truly surprising. And no matter how extreme the twists, they never seem contrived. I never found myself thinking, “Oh, come ON; that would be some coincidence” at any part of the three books.
  So I’m thinking of reading more of Rose’s books, but I’m thinking something else as well:
  Considering what a skilled, truly suspenseful (if a little shocking at times — and that’s a good thing, too) storyteller Rose is, why does she bother with the romantic suspense genre? I’m sure she has found an audience there — and they do tend to be very loyal — but I’m thinking she could broaden her readership if she abandoned it.


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