All Night Long, by Jayne Ann Krentz

>> Tuesday, March 07, 2006

book coverIn the past few years, I've been easily able to wait for the PB release of Jayne Ann Krentz's books. If one of my Uruguayan friends who live in the US was coming, I'd ask them to bring me a couple of used HCs, and I usually made one of those a JAK, but if not, I was resigned.

With her latest book, however, I just couldn't wait. The buzz was just too good for me to resist. Was it really a bit of a return to her older, Golden Age romances? Fortunately, I managed to find someone who could bring me a copy of All Night Long, and I was soon finding out for myself.

The smaller the town, the darker the secrets...

Shy, studious Irene Stenson and wild, privileged Pamela Webb had been the best of friends for one short high school summer. Their friendship ended the night Pamela dropped Irene off at home—and Irene walked in to discover her parents' bodies on the kitchen floor. It was ruled a murder-suicide, and Irene fled the northern California town of Dunsley. But seventeen years later, when Pamela sends a cryptic e-mail asking for help, Irene returns to her hometown to find her old friend has died suddenly, leaving behind a lot of ugly, unanswered questions.

Caught up in a firestorm of desperate deceit and long-buried secrets, Irene knows it would probably be smarter to just pack up and leave Dunsley behind again, but her reporter's instinct—and her own hunger to know the truth—compel her to extend her stay at the local lodge. Even more compelling is the man who runs the place—a hazel-eyed ex-Marine who's as used to giving orders as Irene is to ignoring them. Luke Danner can see the terror beneath Irene Stenson's confident exterior—and he is intent on protecting her. But he is also driven by passions of his own, and together they will risk far more than local gossip to sort out what happened to Pamela Webb, and what really happened on that long-ago summer night. . . .
Well, the buzz was right. While not as perfect as, say, books like Trust Me or Family Man (some of my absolute faves), JAK has managed to recover some aspects which made me love those books so much, and which had seemed to fall by the wayside in some of her latest books. A B+.

After the tragic death of her parents in an apparent murder-suicide when she was sixteen, Irene Stenson left the small town of Dunsley and never went back. She also left behind her new-found and new-lost friend, Pamela Webb, daughter of the town's leading family.

Seventeen years later, Irene receives a strange email from Pamela and goes back to Dunsley to talk to her, only to find her dead body, apparently a suicide. But Irene doesn't believe it, just as she didn't believe the official verdict on her parents' death, and is determined to get to the bottom of it, whether Pamela's powerful family and the authorities want it or not. In this, she's reluctantly helped by the new owner of the town's lodge, newcomer Luke Danner, a man with whom she shares a growing attraction.

The suspense part of this romantic suspense was ok, but nothing to call home about. The romance and the characters, however, were what I know JAK can do so well and just wasn't fully delivering earlier.

Irene is interesting and likeable as a young woman who was able to get over some very difficult things to become a mentally healthy person, and I was especially charmed by Luke. As a hotelier, he'd give the Fawlties, from Fawlty Towers, a run for their money. A former Marine who's working on a new project, he purchased the lodge because he wanted some peace and quite. Well, he didn't count on demanding customers, people who come up with such silly concepts as wanting room service! Seeing Luke dealing with the lodge's guests, trying unsuccessfully to impose some military discipline, was just hilarious.

I also loved Luke's fascination with Irene, even if she is one of those pesky, too-demanding customers. He knows he should want nothing to do with someone so determined to stir up trouble, but he just can't help himself and keeps following her around and helping her, whether she wants it or not.

I think what I loved best about their relationship is how these two apparently very different people discover that at their cores, they are very similar. They are both people who share certain values and have matching worldviews, and even have some similar psychological issues, and that makes them much more compatible than simple appearances would suggest. And the best thing, is that I got a definite feeling of connection between them, a sense of a kind of intimacy, if you will. And I don't mean just sexually, though this is a nicely sexy book: these two completely understood and liked each other, and they found in this something they hadn't been able to find with anyone else.

Not with anyone else, and especially not Luke with his family. Luke comes from a family of very successful wine-makers, but he's always marched to his own beat. From philosophy to the military, his family has never been able to understand that he really doesn't want to get involved in their business. The one time when he let himself be persuaded to do so, it became a real debacle, and Luke is still battling some neverending family pressure about this. They're worried he's just not right, and this makes for some very satisfying scenes in which they are each put in a position to defend the other.

Even though the suspense subplot ends up being a bit too dark and horrible for the tone of the rest of the book, the romance was good enough that All Night Long was a definite success for me.


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