This novel took me long time to get around to because of its generic title and somehow boring cover art depicting a redhead with her hand wrapped around the neck of man who looks like he’s praying for death, all nestled in a lake of fire.
“That’ll be me as soon as I start reading this,” I thought morbidly. “Wishing for death–which would probably be a better title, too.”

(Yes, I’m that shallow. Let’s move on!)

I skipped over this novel in my Kindle rotation several times for these admittedly superficial reasons, until one day I was stranded at the DMV* with no appointment and nothing to read.

Those glaring fluorescent bulbs will do strange things to your mind, so I opened the app reader in my phone and, with a sigh, I began.

Within the first few pages I discovered that not only was the cover art weirdly unappealing, it was also inaccurate. The main character is a blonde, not a redhead, and seemingly much more well endowed than the slim assets on photographic display on the front.

I dislike misleading inaccuracies a lot–it’s about four down from the top of the list. At the top of the list is incorrect grammar usage, closely followed by mixing up homophones and then plain ol’ typos.

Still, I settled into the story with a grumpy writers-these days-attitude. Almost immediately the main character is telling the reader how hot she is, how busty and blonde and good looking. This seems to be an unnatural trend in erotica when the writer uses first-person to inform the reader about the height-weight particulars, as if how to describe a person’s physical attributes without breaking the fourth wall is beyond mortal ability. It throws off the flow of the storytelling because it’s so unnatural. No woman walks around with a voice in her head saying, “Wow, I’ve got impressively large, soft breasts and even though I can chow a whole pizza, look at my tiny waist and tapering long legs.”

Seriously.

Even if it were true, we wouldn’t say that to ourselves.

Still, this was at heart a cop story, and I love a good police mystery.

Patricia Cornwell, Tony Hillerman, Elmore Leonard, Lee Child–these are some of my favorites.

So I gave this a chance, despite the initial skepticism that made my face do this:

And, surprisingly, it turned out to be a pretty good story with a bit of spicy sex. Not very explicit and a bit vanilla, but it fit the main character’s style and was overall well done. No flinch-y snake metaphors or blue lagoons, although rather more “juiciness” than I prefer. When did fruit extract become the go-to euphemism for a woman being turned on?  Ewww.

There is one teeth-achingly annoying part in the narrative when the main character, whose name I keep forgetting, has the usual conflict present in all books of this type.

(Except for Lily Quinn–she still rocks the anti-cliche gold medal.)

Oh, I can’t, I can’t possibly be in love with this self-made millionaire with his gorgeous ripped bod in his beautiful house with servants and a pool…

…in Arizona.

(Setting carries weight. A pool in Arizona is much more significant than in, say, California. Or Alaska.)

And said main character, Madison, does some very typical stupid things, things I can go back and find in Covenant or a million other run of the mill romance novels.

But Madison also has some sparkling moments of coming out swinging like a real character, like a real person even, and I enjoyed the small details throughout the novel that gave some depth to its reality. There’s a bit of quirkiness here and there

(a goat!) (an exceptionally weird lawyer!) that sets this apart from the norm, and the police work and gun play were given a solid, realistic treatment.

In the end I believed in her, Madison Kinlock of the forgettable name, and as with any novel of any genre, that’s ultimately why I read, to make friends and meet new people in a realm beyond reality.

*DMV stands for Department of Motor Vehicles, a bureacratic government agency bent on sucking one’s will to live while waiting endlessly to take care of some minor paperwork.