Friday, June 17, 2011
Forgotten Books Friday: IN DEFENSE OF LOVE (1987) by Kathleen Creighton
I know. How dare I do a post featuring a 'romance' novel as my entry in Friday's Forgotten Books meme? Well, I dare because this happens to be one of my most favorite romantic suspense books and Katheleen Creighton is a terrific writer. After all, lots of us, most of us, read mysteries which are a specified 'genre' as well. We should be used to this sort of name-calling.
Friday's Forgotten Book is a weekly meme usually hosted by Patti Abbott at her blog, PATTINASE. But this week, Patti is away and Todd Mason is doing the hosting duties at his blog, SWEET FREEDOM. Please check out Todd's blog to see the complete list of meme participants and their 'forgotten books' posts.
IN DEFENSE OF LOVE was published in 1987 as part of Silhouette Books' monthly, Silhouette Intimate Moments line which makes it that much harder to stumble across unless you haunt used book stores or internet sites which carry older romance novels. But if you do, and you're lucky, then you might. And then, occasionally, some of the more popular titles from the old Silhouette lines are re-packaged and reprinted. And of course, there's always Paperback Swap.
I've continued to be amazed, then and now, how a monthly line of books could, even occasionally, publish a real 'keeper' of a novel. But they did and I assume they still do. Many of today's most popular contemporary and/or historical novelists got their starts with Harlequin and Silhouette. i.e. Janet Evanovich, Sandra Brown, Jennifer Crusie, Jayne Ann Krentz, etc. These monthly lines were and continue to be good farm systems for writers.
There are some time-wise anachronisms in IN DEFENSE OF LOVE, it was the 80's after all, but they are easy enough to overlook since the story is a good one and moves along at a nice suspenseful clip. Part thriller, part romance, this is the story of 42 year old Michael Snow (one of my all time favorite character names), a judge in the L.A. county court system. He is a widower, aloof and pensive and very self-contained, not to mention, handsome. He is currently hearing the case of some mob connected guys in his courtroom and has begun receiving death threats. But he has turned down police protection because he isn't the type to make a fuss - he values his privacy and doesn't want the press to learn about the threats and possibly make cause to have the case dismissed. Okay.
The problem is that the defendants have hired a hit man to do in the judge. You will probably guess who the hit man is pretty early in but that doesn't spoil the fun of reading this entertaining book. It's still a clever 'take' on the whole killer for hire thing. Not so much today, but then.
Brady Flynn is a young, attractive courtroom artist with a headful of brown curls - I'd remembered the hair as being red, but on re-reading, I was wrong. She is a free-spirited soul who has lately, to her chagrin, begun sketching Judge Snow in between witnesses at the trial, day-dreaming without meaning to during lulls in the case. She has no clue that the judge has been threatened. Brady is a likable character (that's half the battle right there), an excellent artist who is as diametrically different from the judge in personality and outlook as two people can be. She thinks of him as the stern, 'George Washington' of the court circuit. He doesn't even know her name, doesn't notice her much at all, except for the crazy plastic thingy holding up her tumble of brown hair - hey, it's a romance.
The casual Brady is a completely different sort from his late wife who was calm, cool and sophisticated. Part of the humor in the book is in reading how Judge Snow, against all his better judgement, finds himself falling for Brady and along the way, mistaking true love and 'free' love and Brady's attitude about each.
How these two get together is very fun to read about especially if you, like me, are a sucker for happy endings AND well-written romances which interweave thrills and chills with the love angle. But it has to be done just right, has to be a proper mix, and Kathleen Creighton knows how to do this sort of thing very well.
When an attempt on Judge Snow's life literally drags Brady into the mix one rainy evening, he has little choice but to confide in her especially once she convinces him to come home with her. She lives up in the mountains and no one on earth will know where he is at least for a couple of days. The judge at first rebels, but then sees the sense in hiding out in the 'least likely' place.
The story is briskly paced and full of diverse and interesting side characters, including members of the press and Brady's very eccentric neighbors (this is L.A. after all) up on the secluded mountain side where she still lives in the small house her late father left her. He too was an artist and the hero of Brady's life. Author Kathleen Creighton writes about this family connection in a very warm, focused and believable way. At the same time, we also get a glimpse of the enigmatic killer who is closing in on Michael and Brady. Brady is caught up in the plot for the very simple reason that she has gotten a look at a vaguely familiar face driving the car which attempted to run Michael down in the rain. In fact, the face may very well be in her sketch portfolio since she spends a great deal of time around the courthouse sketching interesting faces. So now she too has suddenly put herself in a killer's cross hairs.
If you like atmospheric suspense and a race against time with love in the mix and a killer in hot pursuit then I recommend IN DEFENSE OF LOVE. If you can find it.