The Perfect Touch, by Elizabeth Lowell

>> Saturday, January 30, 2016

TITLE: The Perfect Touch
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Lowell

PAGES: 368
PUBLISHER: William Morrow

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romantic Suspense

The New York Times bestselling queen of romantic suspense returns with a heart-racing tale in which a former soldier turned rancher and a beautiful designer race to stop a vicious killer—a battle for survival that threatens to explode in an intense and irresistible passion.

An art dealer and owner of her own design studio, Perfect Touch, Sara Medina travels the world to find the ideal artwork for her clients. Her sophisticated, comfortable life in San Francisco is light years away from the poverty of her family’s dairy farm, and Sara will do whatever it takes to keep her business strong. A dedicated urban career woman focused on her work, she doesn’t have time or energy for a family or distracting romantic entanglements.

Jay Vermillion recently inherited Vermillion Sky, a working ranch near Wyoming’s breathtaking Grand Teton Mountains—and the estates of the rich and restless. While he was fighting in two wars, his father tried to keep the homestead running, until illness stole his fight and then his life. Jay’s determined to restore Vermillion Sky, but first he’s got to settle a vicious battle with his former stepmother over some of his late father’s paintings. The last thing on his mind is a finding a wife and creating a seventh generation of Vermillions.

When Jay hires Sara to handle his father’s artwork, it’s love at first sight—a mutually inconvenient attraction that is soon complicated by a double murder at the edge of the ranch and a potential betrayal even closer to home. Working together to unmask a murderer, Sara and Jay try to fight the intense heat between them. Then the killer targets Sara. And suddenly, Jay, the war-weary soldier, finds something he’s once again willing to die for...

Once, many years ago, I used to love Lowell's books. In later years that love turned into mild like, but I still found her books worth reading. I fear that mild appreciation might have further degraded.

Sara Medina is an art historian with a particular interest in Western Art. She has her own art dealership, which she has developed through trustworthy advice and eschewing any flashy “pump and dump” practices (unlike some of her colleagues).

She is the perfect person for Jay Vemillion to call when his ownership of a bunch of paintings by a soon-to-be-quite-valuable painter is challenged by his late father’s second wife. Sara’s testimony turns out to be quite crucial in the judge’s decision in the matter, but as a bonus, she and Jay become quite friendly through their phone conversations. What started out as business discussions develops into quite intimate conversations. So when Sara comes to Jackson Hole, where Jay’s ranch is located, to hear the judge’s decision and see if Jay wants her to handle the paintings for him, they’re well on the road to friendship.

One of the first things to happen in Jackson is that her hotel room is burgled. With the town full up with tourists, she takes Jay up on his invitation to stay at the ranch. But trouble hasn’t been left behind. When they visit a distant part of the ranch where some of the paintings are stored, it becomes clear that something very dangerous is going on.

I read the first half of the book, and then realised I did not want to continue. Part of it was that I was not interested in the characters or plot, and that I didn’t really believe in the characters. A secondary character, in particular, was bothersome. Jay’s little brother was annoying in a way that a) was unbelievable, and b) made Lowell’s prejudices about what’s ‘manly’ very clear (if you’ve read Lowell before you won’t be surprised to hear that she thinks urban, urbane men are weak and effeminate). And then there was the evil step-mother, a terrible character and exactly the sort of evil gold-digger that I’ve really had enough of in romance novels. Pretty over the top.

The biggest reason I stopped, though, was that I found the writing excruciating. I used to think Lowell had a way with colourful language and similes, but I don’t know if I have changed or she has, but her writing now feels a bit much. The dialogue, especially, feels over-the-top in its baroqueness, a bit like bad Aaron Sorkin dialogue. She also has lots of instances of a character finding another character’s utterances hilarious and incredibly witty, and I as a reader going “Huh?” Oh, and there’s also a lot of mental conversation going on, much along the same lines.

At least she had an interesting conflict between Sara and Jay: Jay is country, can’t see himself ever leaving the ranch, which feels to him like a refuge after a traumatic deployment in Afghanistan. Sara, meanwhile, grew up poor in a rural area, and shudders at the thought of going back to the countryside. She loves San Francisco, where she lives now, loves things which actually resonated with me quite a bit, like being able to see faces of all colours around her (I tend to find it quite shocking when I go back to Uruguay for a visit after living in England, and Liverpool is not even particularly ethnically diverse, as England goes). I was a bit nervous about how she was going to resolve it, though. Again, knowing Lowell, I couldn’t see it going any other way than with the countryside winning over the city. I might be wrong, but I suspect I’m probably not.

MY GRADE: A DNF after reading over half of it.


Barb in Maryland 30 January 2016 at 22:19  

I did manage to read the whole book, though almost no details have stuck in my brain. The second half is all suspense/thriller and much better than the first half, IMO (though a bit OTT). I agree about how creaky the writing was and how stereotypical all the characters were. Lowell's version of insta-lust is painful to read, and in this book it was very repetitious as well. (Shudder, I do remember that part)
I honestly can't remember how the books ends, beyond the fact of bad guys vanquished and true love wins.

Rosario 1 February 2016 at 06:46  

Sounds like I didn't meet all that much. I think one of my reading resolutions this year should be to stop reading those authors I used to love but who really don't work for me any more. I can probably give up Lowell, the struggle is going to be people like Jayne Ann Krentz!

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