Hey guys, remember when I read that kind-of-awful romance novel by Sandra Brown a couple of months ago, and I mentioned another book I had read by the same author when I was in high school? And then I said that if I could find a copy for cheaps I was gonna buy it and read the hell out of it, hoping it doesn’t suck like Demon Rumm did?
You guys! My mom had a copy!
(I had forgotten that my mother had read Charade first, and what probably happened is that years ago I bought a copy, and then left it with my mother so she could re-read it. Merry Christmas to Alaina 2014!)
(Because yes, this was the last book that I managed to complete in the year 2014, and my stats on that will be forthcoming shortly. Hooray for snow days and increased productivity!)
This may have been the first book in the “romantic suspense” genre I ever read – when I was a teenager, I had no time for “mushy romance,” and to be truthful, even up until about five or six years ago, I still preferred romance in my violence over violence in my romance. Charade had an interesting mystery and the romance stemmed from it through coincidence rather than creating a mystery around it.
Cat Delaney, the Susan Lucci of this universe’s soap opera scene, has a bad heart, and we begin the book at her heart transplant. After her recovery, she decides to retire from acting in order to give back to her community. Inspired by her own orphaned childhood, (because why not), she moves to San Antonio to head up a television segment called Cat’s Kids, which would help get children adopted in the area.
I … just read that sentence, and I guess that during the actual reading of the book, it never hit me how ludicrous that whole thing sounds. Not the soap opera actress relocating to Texas part (although if she were relocating to El Paso, it would definitely be unbelievable), and not even the soap opera actress deciding to do a weekly segment on a local newscast part. I mean, it’s not like she’s doing hard news or anything, so a journalism degree isn’t exactly required. No, the ludicrous part is the idea of showing kids who should be adopted and getting the kids adopted quickly. Maybe it was different back in the ’90s, but nowadays, there is so much red tape when it comes to adoption that while a news program would be a nice thing, there’s no way it would make a difference.
ANYWAY. Here’s where the mystery comes in: there were five other heart transplants on the same day as Cat’s, and on the anniversary of the transplant, one of the recipients dies. And this year, Cat’s in the bulls-eye.
She meets her romantic interest, Alex Pierce, on one of her fact-finding missions: he’s house-sitting for a couple who are interesting in adopting one of her Kids. (Sidenote: I get that it’s the name of her show, but man, the characters are constantly calling the show by its full name. Cat’s Kids. Cat’s Kids. Cat’s Kids. WE GET IT, IT’S THE SHOW.) Alex is a writer, and so when she shows up at 9, he’s just pulling on a pair of jeans and coming to answer the door shirtless after a long night of … writing, and Cat is intrigued, but also appalled at his rudeness. But he keeps showing up to events and being nice to Cat, trying to make up for his earlier rudeness, and when she starts to get threats related to her heart transplant, he reveals he’s a former cop and a current crime writer, so he starts to help investigate the backgrounds of the other, deceased transplantees.
Overall, the plot moves quickly, and there are only a couple of overwritten sentences. There’s a moment where Cat, in the middle of being assigned a security detail, protests by saying that she’s not an “objet d’art.” Nobody talks like that. Oh, and there was a cute moment where Cat’s talking to one of her Kids and she likes his red cowboy boots because they’re like her red cowboy boots, and all I could think of was Ted and his red cowboy boots and his determination to pull them off.
And where does the Charade of the title come into play? Well, you’re led to believe that someone close to Cat is the killer, and he comes across as a nice guy and helpful and sweet and then she thinks she’s figured it out and accuses him of being the killer, but then it’s this other person in the story. You can probably guess who is set up to be the narrative patsy, as this is a romantic suspense story and not, for instance, Gone Girl or some other mystery that actually is able to surprise you as you read it. But I’m not going to spoil it, because that’s something I try very hard to not do anymore.
And how does it stack up, nostalgia-wise? Remember, I was reading this in late high school / early college, and my tastes and reading matter have changed in those *mumblegrumble* years. (You know you’re getting older when you find yourself rounding your age up, even though your birthday isn’t for a whole fifty-nine days.) Well, it was … nice. I mean, I had read it a couple of times back then and I knew the first suspect was just a red herring, and as soon as I saw the character list I remembered who the serial killer was, so I was pretty much just going along until everything resolved itself. I did forget a bunch of incidental stuff, and I had completely forgotten that there were a number of subplots that really had nothing to do with the serial killing main plot (Who stole Cat’s transplant medicine? Oh, it was that chick because she hates her.)
As one of the first “steamy” books I ever read, reading it now, it’s actually … very tame. It’s not a Jane Austen novel, but compared to some of the historical romances I’ve read?
Overall, it was nowhere near as annoying as Demon Rumm, and I maintain that Demon Rumm was one of Ms. Brown’s first novels because the writing has definitely improved in Charade. I’m going to rate it four stars, but please take note that one star is purely for nostalgia. And for finding it when I didn’t think I had it.
Grade for Charade: 4 stars