Body Search, by Jessica Andersen

>> Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I'm always on the look-out for Outbreak-ish romance novels. The closest I've come to finding one so far is Kathleen Nance's Day of Fire, which means I still haven't come near at all. Body Search, by Jessica Andersen sounded like a good bet.

Dale Metcalf had spent fifteen years running from his past. Then a string of suspicious deaths linked to a fierce epidemic forced the outbreak specialist to return to his boyhood home on Lobster Island with Dr. Tansy Whitmore — the one woman he'd never stopped loving.

But the sinister incidents that coincided with their arrival on the windswept coastal island — a mysterious plane crash, a raging fire and a near-fatal attack — proved that someone desperately wanted them dead.… And now, in a race against time, could the two stormy lovers combat danger — and desire — before it was too late?
Well, the basic plot was pretty much what I wanted, but unfortunately, the execution and, most especially, the romance, were pretty bad. A C-.

Body Search's main flaw was its characterization, which was beyond weak. Neither Dale nor Tansy qualified even as two-dimensional characters, let alone three-dimensional. Andersen basically took one characteristic of each and amplified it until it became all they were about, no matter how flimsy that felt. By the end of the book, all I knew about Tansy was that she was determined not to be like her mother, obsessed with a man who kept lying to her, and about Dale, that he had a huge chip on his shoulder about being from Lobster Island.

Dale was especially problematic for me. He's set up as a hugely tortured character, in a very dramatic way, so at the beginning of the book, I was expecting some kind of real issue. But it soon became clear that his whole trauma, the one and only reason why he was so tortured couldn't share himself with Tansy was that he didn't have a privileged upbringing, but was a lobsterman's son from a poor, fishing island. That's it. Can you say shallow snob?

The plot was quite promising, but that promise was never completely delivered. Unlike with most Romantic Suspense books, in this case I kept wishing for more about the suspense and less about the romance. Still, what there was about the whole outbreak thing I did enjoy quite well, even if I never really understood the resolution very well. Just why had these people become infected? And why? Hell, I don't know, maybe this was explained and I missed it. By the time I got to the end of the book, I was having a really hard time keeping my attention from wandering!

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