Kara MacMillan is a single mother trying to balance motherhood with her career as an investigative reporter for a Denver newspaper. After receiving a tip from a whistle-blower, she's hot on the trail of a mining company that has been polluting the environment with toxic dust and chemical waste. Before she can get the whole story though, she finds herself the target of death threats. Things like this have happened before when Kara was investigating a story, so she isn't too concerned until the threat becomes reality.
Reece Sheridan is a state senator who was a former teacher. He got into politics at the suggestion of his students and because he really wanted to make a difference. Reece is being asked by a cement manufacturer to sponsor a bill that would allow the burning of waste tires. The environment is one of his top priorities and the bill seems like it would be a good move, but when his arch rival in the senate signs on too, Reece can't help being a bit suspicious.
Reece and Kara chance to meet at a restaurant where Kara has a bit too much to drink and is then abandoned by her friend. Reece recalled being interviewed by Kara over the phone a few times and that he had always thought her voice was sexy. Being the gentleman that he is, Reece offers to take her home and then can't resist calling her later to ask her out. Their attraction is almost immediate and explosive, but when the death threats against Kara heat up, the pair find themselves embroiled in a web of lies and corporate greed that has Reece as the prime suspect in a murder and both of their lives in mortal danger.
Extreme Exposure is my first read by Pamela Clare, and I have to say that she is a good story-teller. The book had a nice balance of elements too. I had all the bad guys fairly well figured out by the reveal, so nothing was too big of a surprise in that respect. However, the suspenseful nature of the denouement and some of the earlier scenes were still well done, and there were even some lighter, humorous moments as well. Kara's drunken sex interview with Reece was pretty amusing (apparently she is a dedicated journalist even under the influence ;-)), as was her son producing Mommy's vibrator at an extremely inopportune time. The romance didn't fully produce a deep, swoon-worthy emotional connection for me, but it did have some memorable moments, such as when Reece brought his planned dinner to Kara, cooking for her, and when he loyally sat by her bedside after she'd been severely injured. Although not quite as steamy as I was expecting based on other's reviews (most of the love scenes were a little too short and not very detailed), there was one scene in particular that was definitely scorching hot. Overall, Extreme Exposure was a pretty enjoyable read, but the author has some odd quirks in her writing style which kept the book from being the perfect 5-star read for me that I thought it could have been.
Just like Kara, the heroine of Extreme Exposure, Pamela Clare has an extensive background as an award-winning journalist. However, authoring a newspaper article and authoring a novel require two very different writing styles, and I couldn't help but feel that her journalistic style kept seeping into the novel, giving me something of a roller-coaster experience with the narrative. Sometimes, I was engaged in the story and really enjoying it, and other times, it just simply didn't catch my attention and draw me in the way a romantic suspense tale should. I think this was owing to a large part of the book being written in a rather passive way with quite a bit of telling and not enough showing. Ms. Clare also has a tendency to write most of the introspective passages in past perfect tense as the characters basically relive something that has already happened. I've never really seen this in a romance novel before, or at least not to this extent, and in my opinion, it added to the passivity. In general, I think it is a good rule of thumb to keep the reader in the here and now, especially when trying to build a romantic relationship and a suspenseful plot, rather than reliving events after the fact. As written, it was almost like having dozens of mini flashbacks in the narrative. I also wasn't very fond of her repeating certain phrases and passages during introspective moments either. I just didn't feel the need to be reminded of what another character had said or something the person who was ruminating had read, often just mere pages after it had occurred the first time. In my opinion, it only served to slow things down. While some parts of Ms. Clare's writing style may not have been entirely to my liking, I do want to give credit where credit is due. I thought she was great with describing the settings and environmental details which made me see them clearly in my mind's eye. She also did a good job with the dialog which had a snappy, concise and natural flow. In addition, she created some likable characters in Reece and Kara, as well as Kara's son, Connor, who actually acted like the small child he was and not just a tiny adult.
Before starting Extreme Exposure, I have to admit that I was a little skeptical of a politician making good romantic hero material as they tend to have a bad reputation. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. Reece was one of those rare "good guy" politicians, someone who got into it because he truly wanted to make a difference both in the lives of his students, who had encouraged him toward this temporary career change, and in the lives of his constituents. He had a moral compass that kept him from doing things that could be misconstrued, and he and his office were about as transparent as government gets. Because of this, I wish the author hadn't felt the need to justify Reece's actions by frequently reminding the reader that he wasn't abusing his power when he occasionally pulled some strings to get information. I think it was already pretty obvious that he was only doing it for the greater good. Ultimately, Reece was a fabulous guy who made a wonderful romance hero. I loved the way he was a perfect gentleman at their first meeting when Kara was drunk, how he verbally defended Kara, tried to physically protect her, and refused to leave her side when all the bad stuff started happening. And all this, while still being an amazing lover who could make her body sing, a talented cook who could make a delicious meal without breaking a sweat, a great handyman, and he loved kids too. Where can I sign up for my own Reece? (Oops, forgot I'm a married woman for a second there.;-)) The only two things about him that were slightly troublesome were his lack of judgment in previously sleeping with a lobbyist, and that he seemed to fall in love with Kara a little too easily and without a lot of explanation. However, I can't fault the latter too much, because I love when the hero recognizes his feelings early in the story.
Kara was an admirable heroine. She was obviously dedicated to her job and very good at what she did. She was a wonderful mother in spite of sometimes not feeling like she was. Even though I'm a stay-at-home mom, I could still relate to her worries about balancing work and motherhood. I think most moms have days where they feel inadequate. I admired her for her journalistic ethics, and for how she stood up to her boss for being a jerk and to the bad guys when they started coming after her. I can't say that I always agreed with her choice of actions (a couple leaned toward the TSTL side), but I guess they at least made some sense. I sympathized with her being a little leery of trusting men, but I think the author could have presented that aspect in a bit more subtle way instead of it being in the reader's face right from the start. Even Reece instantaneously knew she had issues after only going on one date with her. I just have a preference for these types of past hurts to come out more slowly, because I feel it adds to the intimacy of the relationship when the couple gradually share with one another. At the same time, I felt like Kara needed a little more depth in this area, because she did occasionally irritate me with how long it took her to give into her feelings for him, as well as with her suspicions about Reece's motives for dating her and again later with his involvement in the investigation. Reece was just such a great guy I thought he deserved better than that, but at least she wasn't as bad as some romance heroines I've read.
Extreme Exposure has a plethora of secondary characters, some who have only bit parts and some whose roles are a little meatier, but they all contributed to the story in their own way. Two of the supporting characters we meet in this story, Kara's friends and fellow I-Team members, Tessa and Sophie, become the heroines of the next two books in the series, Hard Evidence and Unlawful Contact respectively. The overall premise for the series, that of a group of investigative reporters digging into various crimes is a new and unique idea for romantic suspense which I like. I can say that Ms. Clare's background in this field certainly shows through in her portrayal of the heroine's profession and descriptions of the newspaper business, even though the technical aspects of the newsroom weren't my favorite parts. Extreme Exposure is the first story in the I-Team series which currently has five books. I may have had a few issues with Ms. Clare's writing style, but I liked the characters and plot well enough that I'm certainly willing to keep going with the series.
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