Like most writers I was first and foremost a reader. I read from a very early age and birthday and Christmas presents were more often than not, books. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I ended up getting a history degree – lots of reading.
I did take one unit of English at university. I don’t remember the reading list but it included the classics. I was never a Dickens fan, didn’t like Thomas Hardy, and I haven’t read Jane Austen – though I struggled my way through half of Wuthering Heights and enjoyed Jane Eyre. But what I particularly disliked about that class was we were (of course) expected to write essays about our reading. Unlike school, where one wrote one’s own opinion of the said work, at uni we were expected to go and read what all the ‘critics’ thought and regurgitate their opinions. I managed a pass, and left English lit behind. I think I spun my wheels.
That’s what I don’t read. What I do read is genre books – science fiction, fantasy, crime, some historical fiction.
Recently I read a whole series of crime books (with a side of romance) by Pauline Baird Jones. The first of them was Relatively Risky.
Here’s the blurb.
Nell Whitby is starting over in New Orleans, getting a publisher for her children’s book, sketching tourists in the French Quarter, and leaving the tragic death of her parents behind. When a handsome detective asks her for a date, her fresh start seems perfect…until a dangerous family secret bubbles up from the past and puts her life in jeopardy.
The oldest of thirteen children, detective Alex Baker has two goals in life: solve murders and avoid anyone under the age of ten. That is, until the day the quirky children’s book author foils a carjacking, becomes a target for the mob, and makes his libido sit up and reconsider the whole no-kids thing. If he doesn’t protect her, she’ll be the next body to turn up in his homicide investigation.
As bullets start to fly, Nell can’t resist her sexy bodyguard or ignore her past, and Alex must protect the irresistible kid-magnet who has them both in the crosshairs.
Relatively Risky is set in New Orleans where the author lived for a number of years. I’ve never been there, so can’t attest to the accuracy, but the settings worked for me. I could feel the steamy climate, see old Man River oozing past, smell the frangipanis, nod understandingly at the parking problems, and lust after the luscious food.
The story revolves around New Orleans’s gangster families and their relationships with each other. There’s even a nod to Romeo and Juliet in the plot. With rival crime families, there’s always disputed turf and people with scores to settle and ambitions to achieve. And guns. All of that bubbles through this book via well-drawn characters from the mob families. Why is the author of kids books of interest to the New Orleans gangs? Now that’s an interesting question.
I found myself smiling often and reading other passages with my heart pounding. I loved Alex Baker and his Baker’s Dozen of siblings. His father was a cop and just about all his brothers and sisters are also in law enforcement in one way or another. Several of them are involved in the events surrounding Nell Whitby and the New Orleans mob families. Sort of the good guy family versus the bad guy families.
This is no fluffy romance. There are plenty of dead bodies, plenty of moments wondering what was going to happen next, plenty of heart-in-mouth moments. In many respects, the romance complicates the crime scene. In case you’re wondering, there are no sex scenes. That’s not the author’s style, although she’s good at sketching sexual tension. She leaves it to the reader to work out what might have happened next in that respect. And that question – why is the author of kids books of interest to the New Orleans gangs? – is brought to a satisfying conclusion.
This was book one of a series. I quickly gobbled up the rest, all involving one of the Baker kids and therefore involving them all.
You can get Relatively Risky for free by signing up to Pauline’s mailing list. What you do from there is entirely up to you.
While you’re here, don’t forget that two of my books are available for free. Give them a go. You might even enjoy them.