Saturday, August 16, 2008

Review: Shadow Dance by Julie Garwood

Title: Shadow Dance
Series: Buchanan
Author: Julie Garwood
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: December 26, 2007
Publisher: Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0345453875
ISBN-13: 9780345453877

Jordan Buchanan is thrilled that her brother and best friend are tying the knot. The wedding is a lavish affair–for the marriage of Dylan Buchanan and Kate MacKenna is no ordinary occasion. It represents the joining of two family dynasties. The ceremony and reception proceed without a hitch–until a crasher appears claiming to be a MacKenna guest. The disheveled and eccentric professor of medieval history warns that there’s “bad blood” between the couple’s clans, stemming from an ancient feud that originated in Scotland, and involving the Buchanan theft of a coveted MacKenna treasure.

Jordan has always led a cautious life and has used her intelligence and reason to become a successful businesswoman. So she is intrigued but skeptical of the professor’s claims that the feud has been kept alive by the grave injustices the Buchanans have perpetrated over the centuries. But when Noah Clayborne, a close family friend and a man who has never let a good time or a pretty girl pass him by, accuses Jordan of being trapped in her comfort zone, she determines to prove him wrong and sets out on a spontaneous adventure to the small, dusty town of Serenity, Texas, to judge the professor’s research for herself.

Maneuvering through a close-knit community in which everyone knows everyone else’s business, Jordan never anticipates the danger and intrigue that lie in her path, nor the threat that will shadow her back to Boston, where even in familiar surroundings, her life is at risk.

A powerful thug who rules by fear, a man who harbors a simmering secret, and an unexpected romance that pierces all defenses–beloved author Julie Garwood weaves these dazzling elements into a brilliant novel of romantic suspense. Shadow Dance is a searing tango of passion and peril.

My rating:

Jordan Buchanan, the ultimate computer nerd, attends yet another brother's wedding and is charged to keep an eye on her sister-in-law's nineteen-year-old sister who's practically doing back flips to gain the attention of Noah Clayborne, an FBI agent with a score list longer than the Good Book. Not that he's interested, he knows the girl is too young for him, but still, it's better to be safe than sorry.

An uninvited guest crashed the party, a nutty professor that's been communicating with Isabel, the nineteen-year-old "acrobat", about her family roots leading all the way back to Scotland. The professor claims the wedding between the two families should never have taken place, since they've always been feuding.

Since he's a MacKenna, the saintly family, according to him, and the Buchanan's are the vile barbarians, Jordan feels she should defend her family from such slander, and is soon sucked into the professor's story about the family feud. And a treasure.

Intrigued, Jordan follows the professor to a small Texas town, Serenity, where everybody knows everybody, everybody is friendly and accommodating... Until professor MacKenna's dead body ends up in Jordan's trunk.

She manages to contact Noah with her predicament, before she's knocked out cold and arrested for murder.

Noah and her brother Nick come barreling into town, clear her of all the charges, get the incompetent chief of police fired, and even more tongues wagging.

Nick is called home, leaving Noah behind to get Jordan safely back to Boston. But another dead body in the trunk keeps them in town for a little while longer.

This book was an obvious improvement from Murder List. The mystery stayed constant and the romance never got in the way of the main plot.

The setting in the small, God-forsaken town in the middle of Texas was refreshing and also served as a sometimes comedic backdrop to the humdrum of murder and mayhem.

Jordan was fun to read. A strong, yet nerdy woman who's more at ease with computers than people. Her trip to Serenity was an attempt to shake up her life, the life many called boring, while for her it was just safe and secure - her comfort zone. Soon, though, her insecurities, again about her appearance, started getting on my nerves.
Why does Ms. Garwood always portray her heroines as shallow? I've read only two of her books, yet in both the heroine was always so self-conscious about her appearance, thinking no one could be attracted to her, because of her looks.

Noah was the typical romantic suspense hero. A playboy (at the beginning) with a soft heart that always changes his way at the end, thanks to his woman.

Yet again, the romance did seem a little forced. They were friends, suddenly, cooped up in the small town, she starts seeing him in a different light. We learn he's always been attracted to her, yet refrained from acting on it, because she was his best friend's sister, so he went on romancing other women... And suddenly, after resisting so long, they just cannot anymore and fall helplessly in love with each other.
Maybe it was something they ate.

The main mystery plot was much stronger than in her previous book, yet once again she just couldn't do without the deus-ex-machina end effect.
While the mystery was driving and keeping the reader at the edge of the seat, the final explanation seemed diluted and far-fetched at best.
While the story built on mystery, the ending left much to be desired.


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