Devon Bannion is ready to retire and give up the spy game to become a partner in his best friend Ian's security company, when Uncle Sam comes calling insisting that he complete one more mission. It seems that an international terrorist who Devon had previously tracked has surfaced again and is now involved in a counterfeiting operation, and Devon is the only one who knows enough about the guy to take him down. Devon was just about to act as best man in Ian's wedding when his orders came down, causing him to miss the ceremony entirely, even though his assignment originates in Chicago where Ian lives. Since Ian is heading out on his honeymoon, he gives Devon permission to crash at his and his new wife, Jane's apartment, but Devon arrives to find a pretty woman he doesn't know already asleep in his borrowed bed.
Lacey Johnson was maid-of-honor in her best friends' wedding and had a little too much to drink at the reception. After going to Ian and Jane's apartment to check on things, a dizzy spell makes her decide to just spend the night. Lacey is scared out of her wits when a strange, albeit gorgeous, man awakens her. After a wild wrestling match with her "attacker," Lacey sobers up enough to recognize him as none other than Ian's best friend, Devon, the man whose picture she has been having steamy fantasies over. Her fondest fantasy soon turns to reality when Devon makes an impetuous bet that Lacey can't seduce him. Never one to resist a challenge, Lacey deftly wins the bet, leading to a wild night of passion, but what will happen in the morning when Devon finds out that Lacey is a computer consultant for the FBI and has been chosen as his partner for his final mission?
The Devil and Ms. Johnson was a fun bit of escapist reading, but I have to say that I enjoyed the first book in this duet, Jane and the Sneaky Dom a little more. The Devil and Ms. Johnson continues the series with the story of Devon and Lacey, the best friends of the hero and heroine of Jane and the Sneaky Dom. Woven in between bouts of hot, steamy sex was a romantic suspense plot that had Devon and Lacey trying to outwit an international terrorist and an FBI mole. This part added some action, light mystery and a bit more substance to the story than one typically finds in erotic romance, but I thought that the bad guys were a little too easy to spot. With this being an erotic romance, the ratio of sex to suspense, at least in the beginning of the book, is probably about 2 or 3:1. Later when it gets into the meatier part of the suspense storyline, several chapters actually go by without a love scene until the very end. As far as the love scenes go, they are quite steamy and very descriptive with some explicit language used, but considering the spicy nature of the book, there was nothing that I would really call kinky. Any readers who can handle lots of heat with some naughty words should be OK with it. There are also some fun scenes that border on romantic comedy which had me smiling on occasion. I particularly enjoyed Devon and Lacey's first meeting when Devon found a drunk Lacey in "his" bed and accidentally woke her up, leading to lots of mayhem which made me laugh.
Devon and Lacey were entertaining characters who spent a lot of time engaging in witty bantering both of a general and a more sexual nature. Many of their love scenes together involve amusing verbal sparring and each of them competing to get the upper hand in the seduction. For this pair, it was definitely a case of opposites attract, as they were often at odds over one thing or another. Unfortunately, I felt that they could have benefited from a little more depth in characterization, and also things just seemed to move too quickly between them to be believable for me. Granted, Lacey had spent a lot of time having hot fantasies while staring at a picture of Devon before they ever met, but Devon knew almost nothing of Lacey except that she was his best friend's wife's best friend. I'm just not a big fan of instant hook-ups or what amounts to stranger sex. I can buy into it if the author creates some kind of palpable connection between the characters, but in this case it didn't really work well for me. I could to some extent sense their feelings beginning to build later in the story, but for me it was too little too late. By then all their steamy encounters had seemed like "just sex," and the extremely brief three day time span of the story reduced the credibility of their burgeoning love for me. Overall, Devon and Lacey were fun characters, but I simply didn't feel like I got to know them very well or that the all-important emotional bond that is necessary for me to truly love a romantic story was fully established.
The Devil and Ms. Johnson had a few other ups and downs for me. I loved the fact that Lacey was a computer geek, which is kind of a rarity in romance especially when it's the heroine. Regrettably though, the author didn't really allow her geekiness to show through enough to suit me. First of all Lacey is far more outgoing and self-confident that most geeks I know, but the most disappointing part was that she never got to show off her alleged mad hacker skills at any point in the book. Another downside was that I thought the story had too much dialog and not enough introspection and descriptive narration. I really think that more of these two things would have gone a long way toward establishing that missing connection I mentioned earlier. Also, based on the two Hannah Murray books that I've read to far, she seems to have a certain buzz word in her novels that tends to get overused. In this one it was, "What?". On the upside, about half the narrative takes place on Mackinac Island, Michigan, at the Grand Hotel no less. The author says on her website that this was a favorite childhood vacation spot, but fans of the romantic fantasy, Somewhere in Time, will recognize this as the setting for that movie too. Even with a bit of suspense in the plot, The Devil and Ms. Johnson was basically a light, breezy read, and in spite of any perceived weaknesses, I did find it to be a reasonably pleasant diversion. So far, Hannah Murray has proven to be a pretty entertaining author, and I look forward to checking out her other works in the future.
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