Val Covington, a workaholic city lawyer, decides to break away from her corporate law fim and start her own practice; a windfall from her actor friend Raine Marlowe allows her to decide that she will take on pro bono clients. In leasing her first premises, she meets good-looking Rob Smith, ostensibly a carpenter, and they start an affair. But Rob is not the carpenter he appears; he's a former Marine and former owner of his own computer business, gone into hiding after a family tragedy. They start to work together when Rob offers his investigative skills to help Val in her quest to prove a man on death row innocent of the murder of a cop.
The romance in this book is very flat. Val and Rob have sex - wham bam - and then they have sex again, and again, and then Rob is suddenly talking moving in and even marriage. Wait a minute... where's the wooing? Where's the heartfelt discussions? Where, for heaven's sake, is the *romance* which Putney includes in spades in other novels? Val apparently has a problem with commitment, but this is told to us - in fact, we're beaten over the head with it - rather than it being shown. And a two-year-old could have worked out why she has this problem; yet it seems to come as a massive discovery to both Val and Rob. Well... duh! I felt like saying.
Sorry - there was really no romance in this book worth talking about. At least, not between the two main characters. The love story which does provide some interest, however, is that between Kendra, Val's assistant, and the man on death row, Daniel, the father of Kendra's now-adult son.
As for the preachy part, this book is a polemic against the death penalty. Now, I should have no problem at all about that, since I am vehemently opposed to capital punishment and find it abhorrent. Putney should have been preaching to the converted here. And yet I felt patronised, lectured to and bored by this part of the book. Sure, all her arguments resonate with me - but that's not why I buy a Mary Jo Putney romance novel. I did find the plot itself, as regards the attempt to prove Daniel's innocence, interesting but, again, I didn't buy a crime/detective novel. I thought I was buying a romance novel.
I have now read three contemporary novels and one novella by Putney, and in every case they failed to live up to the standard set by her historical romances. Put this next to Thunder and Roses, or The Rake, or The Wild Child, and it pales drastically by comparison. Dull characters, next to the vibrance of Nicholas or Reginald or Clare. Preachy plot, next to her emotional, heartrending plotline about the effect of alcoholism in The Rake.
This was a huge disappointment. And, since I see that Putney now appears to be venturing into paranormal in her latest novel, I am not sure that she will be on my auto-buy list any more either. Such a shame, when about a year ago I'd have rated her as one of my top three favourite authors.