Logan Hart is a journalist, vying for the job of assistant editor at the newspaper where he works. His latest assignment is writing a series of articles in which he asks the good citizens of New Orleans to challenge him to work any job for one shift. He's taken on everything they've thrown at him with relish, but his latest job as a male stripper has left him distinctly uncomfortable, until he spots a gorgeous, dark-haired woman in the audience. Keeping her as his focus, he draws her onstage to participate in a sexy slow dance with him that leaves the audience - and him - breathless. Logan invites the enticing lady to meet him after the show and is pleasantly surprised when she does. Together, they share a night of unforgettable passion, but Logan wakes the next morning to find his sexy siren has flown the coop.
Jody Dupree is a cop, who likes her job, patrolling the mean streets of New Orleans. She allowed her best friend to talk her into going to the strip club to celebrate her birthday. It's not her usual scene, so she shocks even herself, when she goes up on the stage with the hot stripper. Trying to get out of a post-relationship funk, she decides to indulge in one night of ecstasy with Logan. Even though he's the best lover she's ever had, Jody isn't in the market for a new man. She intends for it to be only the one night, so she's more than a little peeved when he shows up at the police station the next day. It seems his final job to perform and write about is being a cop, and Jody has been assigned to show him the ropes. Not only is she upset about dealing with the awkwardness of her post-coital run for the hills, she can't believe Logan didn't tell her he was actually a reporter and not a stripper. There are things in Jody's past that she prefers remain buried and if they're dredged up by an overeager newshound, could even put her life in danger.
Logan wanted to see Jody again, but since she didn't so much as give him her last name, even a talented journalist like him would have had trouble finding her again, so he's thrilled when he discovers she's the cop he'll be riding with. As he gets to know her better, he sees the pain behind her eyes and senses that there might be a story there too. He starts digging around a little and finds out that her father was murdered and that she and her sister were presumed dead as well, when Jody was only a girl. Logan soon discovers that Jody's uncle tried to kill her too and has been arrested and extradited back to New Orleans to stand trial, but the man no sooner returns than he escapes from police custody, nearly killing Logan and Jody in the process. The pair head into the swamps of the bayou to hide out in the cabin where Jody grew up with her grandmother, but her uncle's reach is long. The madman will stop at nothing short of seeing Jody dead. If they survive, can Logan give up writing the story of a lifetime, and possibly the assistant editor position, in order to save his new relationship with the woman he's come to love and keep her secrets safe?
After finishing Southern Exposure, I'm having similar feelings about it as I did with Southern Comfort, the first book of Karen Kelley's Southern series. Once again, I couldn't help feeling that both the characters and plot were somewhat lacking. As with the first one, this book is pretty short for a full-length novel (262 pages), so it seems to me like there would have been plenty of room for more character and plot development if the author had chosen to do that, but for some inexplicable reason she didn't. Southern Exposure basically picks up right where Southern Comfort left off, except the romantic focus shifts from Wade and Fallon in Texas to Fallon's long-lost, presumed-dead sister, Jody, and her love interest, Logan, in New Orleans. Fallon and Jody's uncle remains the villain. He's about to be extradited to New Orleans to stand trial, but he's not going quietly. Sometimes, it felt like the author didn't quite know what to do with the characters, so at times, the plot meandered IMO. She also includes a few too many POV scenes for secondary characters, when I couldn't help thinking that she could have used that space to build her main characters more fully. The first half of the book moves rather slowly, with very little action taking place, then about halfway through, the plot comes to a screeching halt, while Jody takes her best friend, Andrea, for a make-over and clothes shopping spree (the author seems to have a penchant for these as something nearly identical happened in the first book). This little detour had no real bearing on the overarching plot and did nothing to propel things forward. Instead, it just seemed like little more than unnecessary filler. The second half of the book picks up a little, with the uncle escaping no sooner than he's arrived in New Orleans which leads to a little suspense and a happy reunion between the sisters. Again, just like with the first book, the suspense part was pretty predictable, but it was also the part that kept me from dropping the rating any lower.
Jody was a heroine I had a hard time getting a read on from an emotional perspective. When the story opens, she seems like almost a carbon copy of her sister, an alpha female commitment-phobe, who works in law enforcement. She and Logan have a one-night stand right after barely meeting, but she gets angry with him when she finds out he's not actually a stripper but was working on a story for the newspaper. I couldn't have agreed more with Logan that she didn't really have any right to be upset with him for not telling her he was a reporter when she wouldn't even so much as tell him her last name. Not to mention, if she hadn't skipped out on him before the next morning, things might have gotten more real between them. However, Jody's surly side doesn't last long, before she transforms into a more vulnerable woman. She's deeply affected by nearly being killed by her uncle when she was just a child and is also bothered by her psychic visions. This softer side of Jody almost seemed at odds with how she was before. Later on though, she goes right back to being prickly with Logan and not trusting that he won't write the article about her. Because of this back and forth in her personality, Jody's characterization felt uneven to me. Ultimately, I guess she came off as less anti-social than her sister, so for that reason, I liked her a little better, but it was still rather difficult to understand her at times.
As hard as it was for me to connect with Jody, I never felt like I got to know Logan well at all. He's a journalist who is vying for a promotion to assistant editor of the newspaper. In an effort to make that happen he's been writing a series of articles in which he allows the readers to challenge him to work any job for one shift. As a result, he's working as a stripper when he meets Jody, and his next assignment brings him to the police department to learn about being an officer. He's assigned to ride with Jody and his nose for news smells a deeper story with her than what she's letting on. Logan did do some things that proved he had a good heart. For starters, I liked that when he and Jody had their one-night stand, he asked her several times if she was sure she wanted it before actually having sex with her, so I had to give the guy kudos for being cautious for both his own sake and hers. He also doesn't hesitate to risk his life for her, and in the end, it's clear that he cares more for Jody than his job. I can't deny that Logan definitely came off as one of the nice guys, but there just wasn't a whole lot to his character to make him memorable.
As for Logan and Jody's relationship, I can't say that I felt much of a connection between them. Just like with the last book, it starts out with insta-lust and sex right out of the gate, which is definitely not my favorite way to begin a story. Unless the author can make me feel a deep emotional connection between the hero and heroine, I prefer for the romance to build slowly. Neither of these were the case in this story. Jody fully intends for their first encounter to be nothing more than one-time sex, until Logan shows up at her work, and even then she resists the idea of it happening again, even though she's still attracted to him and admits he's the best lover she's ever had. Of course, it does happen again... and again... and again. Considering the sheer frequency and the fact that the love scenes do get a little spicy with some creative uses for chocolate syrup and whipped cream (as well as a couple of sex toys being used in a secondary character love scene), one would think that this would be a really hot, steamy story, but IMHO, despite the little sensuous extras, the love scenes fell horribly flat. They were too short, too lacking in descriptive details, and desperately in need of more expressions of feelings and emotion. The love scenes could have been great, but without those things, especially the emotion, I felt virtually no connection either to or between the characters, so that these scenes were nothing more than just sex.
As I mentioned before, I think the author could have done a lot more to make the story more exciting. Except for one instance in which Jody actually sees a crime in progress and can't ignore it, Logan's ride-alongs with her are pretty dead, because her chief has told her to hang back in order to keep him safe. The secondary romance between Jody's friend, Andrea, and Logan's brother, Kevin, didn't really do much for me. IMO, their scenes weren't integral to the plot and therefore not really necessary. Every time their POV came up, I was thinking how that space could have been better utilized on Logan and Jody. Not to mention, their romance and love scenes were equally as lacking in emotion as the main romance. I did enjoy catching up with Wade and Fallon. Their scenes had more bearing on the overall plot, and I didn't find them to be as distracting.
In the end, Southern Exposure was an OK read for me. It wasn't a bad book, but neither did it reach the heights of greatness. The hero and heroine were likable enough even though I didn't feel like I knew them very well. While the romance didn't do a whole lot for me, I suppose the suspense kept me somewhat intrigued. I've read a lot worse books, and it admittedly wasn't a major chore to finish. There is one more full-length novel in the Southern series, Hell on Wheels, but since the main characters' names aren't familiar to me, I have no idea what the connection between the books is. After two so-so reads in a row from Karen Kelley, I'm somewhat undecided as to whether I'll continue with the series. I'm using it for a reading challenge in which I'm participating, so if I can't find anything else to replace it, I most likely will in a few months. All I can say is we'll see.:-)
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