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.


  1. Almost all publishers have monthly schedules, when you think about it, and there are plenty of romance writers who can write very well indeed (I think the strictures on commercial romance publishing are too tight, and as more romance publishing goes to ebooks, a lot of those strictures are starting to fall by the wayside). My most telling experience, from when I was reviewing short fiction for the now defunct magazine THE FIX, was with one of those three novella books of romantic suspense, where the established Name's story was clearly phoned in, not even trying, while the newbie of the trio was writing a damned good suspense story, but, either at someone's instruction or out of a sense of what the market demanded, kept undermining the buildup so that the tension was dissipated (the third story, by a journeywoman in the field, unsurprisingly fell between these in quality).

    I have a couple of issues of Harlequin's magazine FIVE GREAT ROMANCES, and one of the stories in one of those issues would've fit very well into ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE one the stands at the same time...except it had too much sex in it.

  2. I switched from romance to crime when I was quite young, and unless you combine the love story with a nasty crime, I am not sure I am going to revert to romance again - no matter how much you tempt me. But of course I also read MY favourites for entertainment :)

  3. Todd: I think for some writers, the monthly deadline is a very good thing. Some people just work better under those conditions.

    I do agree with you that 'restrictions' put on romance writers will often do in what might have begun as a good idea. Some publishers will just not allow for 'new and different' in style or characerization. There are as MANY 'journeyman' writers in the field as there are, I think, in the mystery/thriller genre. I try to avoid those as best I can. :)

    But there are certainly many writers of romance who often broke the mold and kept right on writing and having great careers. Anne Stuart is definitely one who did this and in a different way so is Mary Balogh.

    Edith Layton is another who, if she had not passed away, would, I think, have gone on to bigger and better.

  4. Dorte: Well, this book has nasty crime (attempted murder) mixed in. One of the reasons I like it so much. I'm not one for sappy romance with nothing else going on.

    I tend not to read much romance these days, too much else going on, reading-wise. But I will not turn down a good romantic thriller if it's well-written. Nope.

  5. Yvette - I love it! Who says that FFB has to be only SF, crime, fantasy and the occasional western? Wait till my FFB post for next week when I'm writing about a book in celebration of Gay Pride Weekend. It has nothing to do with my two obsessions in fiction - crime or the supernatural. HA!

  6. John: I agree. I didn't think we weren't free to write about any book, genre or otherwise. I thought it should only qualify as 'forgotten'. :)

    Is next week Gay Pride Weekend?

    I'll want to write something in respect to that as well, I think.

    I've got a terrific series in mind. No hints.

  7. I'm not sure every writer was/is expected to write a novel a month, but if so, that does help to explain some of the burnout. Not that the long novellas of most of the lines in the 1980s (I think the bodice-busters were the first to tend toward bugcrushing as well) would be too much more than most professionals produce in a typical month in wordage, anyway.

  8. Todd: I think the monthly thing depends on your contract. Every writer is not writing a book for every month that's for sure. And you might, depending on when you pick up the contract, have more writing time between books.

  9. Not a romance reader, but if this is combined with a mystery and has a happy ending, why not bend the genre a bit, I say.

    I have way too much on my TBR mountain and lots in my library reserve account, and tons on my TBR list with all of these great blog posts of ideas -- and movies, too.

  10. Kathy: My job is to put the info out there, your job is to pick and choose. HA! Good jobs all around, I think. :)

  11. You've sold me! I'm gonna look for this one! Thanks for the recommendation!

  12. Julie: Great. I think you'd like it, if you're in the mood for a good contemporary. Paperback Swap had it a little while ago. :)


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