Love Vs. Illusion, by MJ Rodgers

>> Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Love Vs. Illusion is the fourth book in MJ Rodgers' Justice Inc. series, coming after Beauty Vs. The Beast, Baby Vs. The Bar and Heart Vs. Humbug.

She was on the fantasy ride of a lifetime

When her brother is betrayed by his own client, it's up to A.J., Justice Inc.'s ace investigator, to prove his innocence. But to do that, A.J. will have to live out another woman's fantasies.with Zane Coltrane, her sinfully sexy competitor, coming along for the ride.

And Zane has his own special reasons for going undercover at the ultrasecret island kingdom of Fabulous Fantasies, a theme park that promises its patrons fulfillment of their every fantasy.

But these two seasoned private investigators are about to learn that living someone else's fantasies can be a pretty risky business.especially when desire and danger become part of the program.
I'm giving Love Vs. Illusion a C+, but it's not a mediocre book. This C+ is all about the sucky ending, which ruined what was, up until the very end, a very good book.

Private Investigator AJ Justice's brother, Adam, is the founder of Justice Inc., the law firm featured in all the books in this series. Adam and AJ are very close, so when Adam is found to be in contempt of the court in a case he's trying, and sent to jail, it falls to AJ to find the true facts of the case in order to get him out.

Problem is, the information that would keep Adam out of jail falls under the confidential attorney-client relationship, so even though it's his very client who is causing all the trouble, Adam can't make the truth clear. This means AJ will have to investigate the whole thing blind, not really knowing what she's looking for. She decides to infiltrate the client's Virtual Reality theme park, Fabulous Fantasies. But her mission doesn't go as planned when she realizes rival PI Zane Coltrane is following on her footsteps, and means to work with her on the case, whether she wants it or not.

This series is all mystery romance, and in general, the mysteries have been much stronger than the romances, and this one is the most interesting yet. To make a long story short, Adam is defending the owner of the VR firm against allegations made by two abandoned husbands. The men say that their wives abandoned them for no reason after spending a weekend at Fabulous Fantasies, and so they claim that they were somehow brainwashed there.

AJ's first impression is that it's just a nonsense case, but after all that happens with Adam, she starts wondering, and so she decides to try out these VR services herself, going in undercover. I had a blast reading about AJ's adventures in VR, even as they start getting more and more ominous. I did have some doubts from the start about whether VR, at least as described here, would even be possible (my impression? no way, and probably not even in the near future), but I was easily able to suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride.

So I enjoyed this, and I also enjoyed the way AJ and Zane went about investigating what was going on. The steps they took made sense, and their discoveries were very, very interesting.

Also good news is that in L Vs I, unlike in the other books in the series, the romance is quite strong, too. Not as much as the mystery, but still pretty good. AJ and Zane have a lot of chemistry, and I bought their relationship without much trouble.

So there I was, smiling as I headed into the epilogue, because it had been a fun book, when wham!. I can see what Rodgers was trying to do, I guess. She was probably wanting to do some kind of unexpected, ingenious twist, but the thing is, though unexpected, yes, it was not ingenious in the least. And not original, either, just a variation of a clichéd soap opera plot device. In any case, it completely ruined the HEA for me.

For those of you curious about what I'm talking about, here's a spoiler: [[It turns out it was all a dream... a VR dream. There was no case, Adam wasn't in trouble, AJ and Zane didn't infiltrate Fabulous Fantasies, and they didn't fall in love, either. It all happened in AJ's mind, as she was recovering from an injury, and she'd been doing a VR session to get her mind off the pain. Gah!]]

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