Posted in: AztecLady Reviews
A contemporary romance released by Brava on November 4th 2008, Hot as Hell is my introduction to Ms Dimon’s writing. Given what I’ve read over the years about her work, plus this review by Jane over at Dear Author, I had high expectations for this novel.
So, I was extremely happy to get a copy in a giveaway at Ms Dimon’s blog just before the release date. Free book in my hot little mittens before it is available to other readers? Hello, double bonus! The only requirement to enter the drawing was to agree to post a review (or comments, thoughts) about the novel, so here I am.
And I confess that, even though I know better, I was intrigued by the dreaded back cover blurb:
She’s mad as hell. He’s the reason. The desert may not be big enough for both of them…
“Tell me more…”
Lexy Stuart is nobody’s fool… not since she wised up to the fact that her fiancé, Noah Paxton, wasn’t just sporting the hardest bod this side of the Ironman competition. No he was harboring enough secrets to make a CIA operative blush. Little things he never thought worth mentioning like, oh, a previous marriage. So Lexy gave back the ring—with extreme prejudice—and made sandy tracks straight to a remote desert spa. Problem is, with a man like Noah, a girl can run, but she can’t hide. Nor does she particularly want to…
Alexa Annabeth Stuart. The stuffy name couldn’t be less suitable for a woman as fiery and free as Noah’s Lexy. And Lexy is his—always will be—the tricky part will be getting her to realize it. Of course, Noah’s always up for a challenge. Which is a good thing, since between the crazy heat at this god-forsaken “retreat” and the looks Lexy’s shooting him (not to mention the shockwaves he’s getting from her hot-pink bikini), winning his ex back could be one dangerous mission. But if Noah doesn’t survive it, well, he intends to die a very satisfied man…
With all of that, it sucks out loud that I didn’t enjoy the book, even more so because I like Ms Dimon’s online presence. It’s not fun to be on the receiving end of criticism, but neither is it to hand it out. Still, here is the review.
The premise is simple if one goes by the blurb, but of course the actual novel has little to do with that. There is the matter of some blackmail, stolen secrets from a military contractor, a murder, and some of the most confusing dialogue I’ve read in a good long while.
Lexy is billed as a smart, independent entrepreneur who owns her own marketing company and also does contract work for her family’s security firm—which, now that her parents retired, is headed by her brother and his two partners, Noah and Dex.
When she finds out—we never learn how—that Noah has kept a previous marriage from her, she’s both outraged and shaken. That an important client of the family firm just contacted her (why her? her brother is the president of the company) to tell her they suspect Noah of stealing military secrets, pretty much puts the icing on her cake.
So off she goes—without telling her brother about her and the clients’ suspicions—to investigate a link to the theft. Mind, she has no security training and is not computer savvy, but this smart woman is determined to find out who, what, when and where all on her own.
Noah is an intelligent ex military man with some never disclosed or explored childhood issues who, apparently, seems to think that by ignoring his past—as in, never mentioning it and never answering questions about it—he can obliterate it from his life. Worse, in his own internal dialogue he cannot understand why Lexy would even want to know anything that happened before they met and got involved.
So he follows her to Utah—where her investigation took her—to convince her of the error of her ways and get back to “we are getting married.”
I have often said that characterization is king with plot running a close second. I can forgive a lot in a novel if the characters ring true to me. The moment I start nitpicking every action and line of dialogue, it’s evident the characters aren’t people to me but artificial constructs.
That is what happened with Lexy and Noah, from the first conversation. I get the feeling that I am supposed to find their back and forth engaging, but instead of banter what I heard was bickering more suited to very young people and not adults in their thirties.
“Don’t sit,” she ordered.
He faced her on the same level this time. “Too late.”
She slapped her magazine against her bare legs. “The chair is taken.”
“By?” He glanced around ready to beat the shit out of whatever poor loser tried to wrestle the seat away from him.
“Anyone who wants it except you.” (p6)
Further, their conversations seem to go in circles, both of them going out of their way never to address the issues that caused Lexy to break the engagement—let alone to run off to Utah. One would assume that whatever makes a woman return a ring would be serious enough to talk about, let alone focusing on extricating themselves from being suspects in a murder investigation.
Yet, while trying to convince the detective in charge of the investigation to look at someone else as a more likely suspect, Noah’s thoughts are, “Now that Lexy had the connection in her head, that’s all she would talk about. If he ever wanted to have sex again, he had to resolve this first.” (p223) Ummmmm… what now? That is what he’s thinking about—or rather, is that how he’s thinking about his relationship with Lexy? What is he, fifteen? or thirty five?
Back to supposedly intelligent, professional Lexy. I’m supposed to believe that Lexy, who is so worried about the possibility of Noah selling out that she a) broke her engagement to him, and b) took off to Utah in order to investigate the matter, leaves her files laying about her resort room—when there are safes in the rooms? And there are safes in the rooms, because a few pages later, Noah uses the one in his room, which two doors down from hers.
I’m not even going to touch on the mental health issues that Lexy may or may not have, apparent legacy of growing up with parents who hoard. (But go see what Jane has to say about that.)
When characterization fails to engage me, I turn to plot. Sorry, no dice either. A lot of the plot just didn’t add up, and to top it all off, I guessed the identity of the blackmailer the moment the name was mentioned about one third into the novel, and solved the murder just past the half way point.
For this one reader, Hot as Hell is a 6 out of 10. The good news for Ms Dimon is that I’m in the minority, as the reviews here (Romantic Times subscribers only, sorry), here, and the previously mentioned one at Dear Author show.