Woman on the Run, by Lisa Marie Rice

>> Thursday, December 01, 2005

Second Lisa Marie Rice post of the day: Woman on the Run. This one's a stand alone, not part of any series.

Sophisticated urbanite Julia Devaux loves her life. What's not to love? A fabulous job in publishing, wonderful friends, gorgeous apartment, the company of her beautiful though temperamental Siamese cat, Federico Fellini—she's got it made. And then Julia has the bad taste to witness a Mob murder and her life goes straight down the toilet. Under the Witness Security program, Julia is relocated to the boondocks, a hundred miles from the nearest bookstore and Estee Lauder outlet, where the only fast food is deer and the only entertainment is sex with a laconic local rancher. Luckily, talking isn't what Sam Cooper does best...

Former SEAL Sam Cooper can't believe his luck when mystery woman Sally Anderson hits town. Simpson, Idaho, can't even offer a decent cup of coffee let alone gorgeous new grade school teachers. The instant Cooper sees Sally, he stakes her out as his own. Granted, he's not much good at talking, but he does his best to keep her happy. When he discovers her life is in danger, he'll stop at nothing to keep her safe and with him. He's not alone. The whole town of Simpson wants to keep her.
This one joins Midnight Angel as one of my favourites by this author. A B+.

I confess I was a bit leery at first. The romance genre's fascination with taking urban, sophisticated women to, as it says in the blurb, the boondocks, have them fall in love with mysoginistic cowboys and beat them over the head with how city=evil, is well known, and something that bugs me. I really hoped Rice had done something a different, but was pretty much resigned.

Well, it didn't happen. Sure, Julia ends up staying in Simpson and actually living in a ranch, but I never got the feeling Rice was demonizing city living and painting the small town of Simpson as paradise. Simpson is well drawn, warts and all, as a small town which is slowly dying. Julia really hates it, initially.She does come to appreciate its good points and becomes fond of its inhabitants, but her previous life as a "sophisticated urbanite" isn't denigrated. In fact, it becomes one of Julia's strengths when it comes to helping Simpson survive and stop losing people.

But it was the relationship between Julia and Cooper that I enjoyed reading about the most. Need I say that he's a big alpha? Course not, it's pretty much assumed in a LMR novel! But what I do need to say is that he's not an obnoxious one. A cowboy, yes, but not a mysoginistic one! He doesn't try to obliterate and completely dominate his woman, he's a much nicer guy than that.

From the moment he sees Julia, he's completely smitten with her (love that word). But, due to certain episodes in the past and the undeniable fact that Julia is much too sophisticated for a town like Simpson and very different from him in personality, he knows it's very improbable that Julia will actually want to stay with him. Instead of trying to browbeat her into staying, though, he decides to try his best to woo her.

It's sweet, really, because, while he does try, the guy is so completely unable to do what he thinks he should do to win Julia. From the way he pretty much gets carried away every time he gets Julia alone, to the way he can't seem to chatter to her as he thinks she wants him to, he spends half the book scared to death because he's falling deeper and deeper for her while he doesn't believe she's feeling the same way and he doesn't feel there's anything he can do about it. Of course, all that time Julia is falling for him on her own, not because of those details, but because of the person he is, something he's learned to believe isn't really worth much.

In that sense, Cooper reminds me a bit of Douglas, from Midnight Angel, only not as over-the-top. And, as with Douglas, Cooper's absolute wonder when he sees Julia seems to be interested in him makes for a sweet and tender story, the great big alpha notwithstanding.

The suspense subplot was quite good. It wasn't what kept me reading, so I could have done with fewer scenes from the POV of the "professional" who's tracking Julia to kill her, but it didn't bother me and actually enriched the story. I've noticed Rice's suspense subplots seem to be a cut above the usual when it comes to romantic suspense. They're better plotted and tighter, and they always have a touch of originality.

If you loved Midnight Angel but were a bit ambivalent about the too-controlling heroes in Midnight Man and Midnight Run, give this one a try.

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