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Thursday, September 19, 2013

ARC Review: Crash and Burn by Allison Brennan and Laura Griffin

When I heard that two of my favourite romantic suspense authors were teaming up to co-write a new suspense/mystery series, I jumped at the chance to read CRASH AND BURN, the novel that kicks off the Moreno & Hart series. I love Allison’s dark and twisted romantic thrillers and think that Laura’s Tracers series is some of the best straight-up romantic suspense around, so I was intrigued to see how these two fantastic authors would combine their two very different writing and storytelling styles into a cogent whole. The result is two great (but short) stories featuring two kickass characters that reads like the pilot for a new high-octane television series and sets the stage for what is sure to be a very successful collaboration.

CRASH AND BURN is an unusual collaboration in that it’s actually two separate-but-connected stories written by each of the two authors and each told from the point of view of one of the two protagonists, Scarlet Moreno and Krista Hart. Scarlet and Krista are former LAPD officers who were set up and nearly killed during a sting operation three years ago and now run Moreno & Hart Investigations in Orange County. Each story follows one of the investigators on a case and is heavy on the action and suspense but lighter on the romance as we are introduced to Scarlet and Krista and their romantic interests.

CRASH is very much an Allison Brennan novel, darker and with a heftier dose of murder and violence to match the older, broodier Scarlet, who’s truly still a cop at heart but enjoys the freedom being a PI gives her to investigate who betrayed Krista and her three years ago. Scarlet is working a cheating spouse case when she finds herself inadvertently in the middle of a hilarious-but-sad crazy stalker ex-girlfriend case and butting heads with new, sexy Newport Beach detective Alex Bishop in a double homicide where her favourite bartender becomes a suspect. [Note: sexual assault plays an important role in the story]. It boasts Allison’s trademark pitch-perfect pacing and approachable writing style, and the great dialogue makes both Scarlet and uptight Detective Bishop thoroughly likeable characters—even in a short(ish) story. I wish there had been more time for the romance to feature more prominently, but that will hopefully come in subsequent books! Scarlet absolutely kicks ass, and I want to be her when I grow up. Krista too.

BURN is a great example of why Laura Griffin won the 2013 romantic suspense RITA—though, again, lighter on the romance than usual. It’s beautifully written, with a great balance of humour and gripping suspense that perfectly showcases Krista’s sunnier personality and dogged determination to elevate Moreno & Hart to the top. After chasing down deadbeat dads and philandering husbands for most of the three years Moreno & Hart has been operating, Krista is hired by the biggest criminal defence attorney in Orange County to track down and deliver a missing witness. But things are not what they seem, the client is an absolute wanker, and Krista is forced to cross paths (and reluctantly work with) sexy-but-irritating-as-hell rival investigator R.J. Flynn. Though the length of the story and the focus on the suspense means there isn’t much in the way of romance, the attraction (reluctant on Krista’s part and blatant on R.J.’s) between the two of them is evident and their banter has me really looking forward to them finally getting together!

If you like your suspense primarily plot-driven (but with some really great characters) and/or are a fan of Allison Brennan or Laura Griffin, CRASH AND BURN will not disappoint. If you have never read anything by Allison or Laura, it’s a great way to get acquainted with their voices before delving into their very extensive backlists. I’m already looking forward to the next Moreno & Hart book and intrigued to see if they will keep to the current format of two connected short(ish) stories with Allison writing Scarlet and Laura writing Krista.

ARC provided by Author**

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