Veronica Archer is a student of erotic literature and art, who also owns a bookstore dedicated to the genre. Her store, which is in the same building as her apartment, was broken into, but mysteriously, nothing of value was taken. At the same time, a secret admirer has been leaving her seemingly innocuous little tokens. Unsettled by the break-in and upset with the police for not giving her case higher priority, she goes to the police station, where a surprisingly eager detective is willing to speak with her but the questions he asks leave her feeling insulted.
Jack Parker has been investigating the case of a stalker whose calling cards are notes gleaned from erotic literature. His partner has arranged for an expert to come take a look at them, so when Ronnie shows up, he mistakes her for the professor. She's very well-versed on the subject, giving him some new information to go on, but she quickly becomes angry with him over his line of questioning. Later, Jack figures out she wasn't the person he was waiting for when the real expert shows up. The guy isn't nearly as knowledgeable as Ronnie, so Jack goes back to her to make amends. He'll do what he can to help her with the break-in, if she teaches him everything she knows about erotica. Soon their "lessons" take an intimate and personal turn as they act out some of Ronnie's deepest sensual fantasies. But when dead bodies of women who are connected to Ronnie's store start turning up, as well as naked pictures of her and Jack making love, it seems the stalker has set his sights on Ronnie. Can Jack keep her safe from the lunatic with a fatal obsession or has he arrested the wrong man?
Silent Confessions was my second read by Julie Kenner. It's one of her older books that's on the shorter side, more the length of a Harlequin romance. It was actually published by Harlequin, but not in one of their specialized lines. I really like Ms. Kenner's writing style. It's straightforward and easy to read. Her love scenes are loaded with steam, probably on the order of a Harlequin Blaze. A couple are borderline erotic, but there are also several that are closed-door and kind of glossed over, so I wouldn't really call this an erotic romance, just a very spicy one. However, with the heroine being a student of erotica and the owner of a bookstore specializing in the genre, there's a lot of talk of historical erotic literature and art that very much piqued by curiosity. That, in my estimation, is the hallmark of a good book, one that can teach me something new or stir my interest in a previously undiscovered topic, so overall, I had a really good time reading Silent Confessions.
Jack and Veronica are likable characters. He's a detective with the NYPD, working in the sex crimes division. He got into that specialty because of a family member who was raped. Ronnie, as I've mentioned, is a graduate student and the owner of a bookstore specializing in erotica. She also gives lectures and leads discussion of these books at her store. The store was recently broken into, but nothing of value was stolen, so the cops haven't made her case a priority. Jack, on the other hand, is working a case involving a stalker who leaves messages gleaned from erotic literature. The two meet when Ronnie goes to the police station to demand an update on her case, and Jack accidentally mistakes her for the erotica expert his partner lined up to help them on the case. As it turns out Ronnie is far more well-versed in erotica then the purported expert, so after Jack figures out his faux pas and apologizes, she ends up helping him with his investigation by giving him private lessons in erotica that don't always involve reading.;-)
Normally I'm not a big fan of quick hook-ups in romance, but here it worked beautifully for me. The only reason I can discern for that is that the author made me feel the chemistry and emotional connection between these two characters on a visceral level, so that I fully believed they were two halves of a whole that had always been meant for one another. They just can't seem to get enough of each other, and they give their trust freely and implicitly from the start. Until they met, Ronnie had thought she was destined to only live vicariously through the sexual exploits of the authors whose works she read, and after a marriage gone bad, Jack thought he was having trouble trusting women, but with Ronnie all that changes. For this reason, I had no trouble believing they made a great couple.
The main reason I decided to mark the book down a star is that I felt like the characterizations could have gone deeper. The author gives enough background information on Jack and Ronnie to make me feel like I knew them fairly well, but at the same time I would have liked to know more. For instance, I don't recall any specific reasons being mentioned for Ronnie getting into the study of erotica, which is kind of an unusual field. It would have been nice if this had been explored a little more. Also, while reasons were given for Jack's chosen law enforcement specialty, I couldn't help feeling like I'd like to know more about how this incident affected him personally, and why at the end of the book, he's open to changing. How did Ronnie and/or her case make him feel like he'd done justice enough to his job and his cousin to be OK with a switch? In addition, I think the villain's motives could have been a little clearer and more believable. Up until the point where his identity is fully revealed, he'd seemed fairly innocuous, so it was a little hard to buy into such a sudden change. However, the author did make me second-guess myself on the stalker/killer's identity a few times. I can't help wondering if she was perhaps constrained by word count, in which case, she still did a decent job of creating a good story in a rather short space.
In spite of a few weaknesses, Silent Confessions was an enjoyable read for me for all of the reasons I've mentioned above. While Julie Kenner's website doesn't officially have this book linked with any others as a series, there is another book, Silent Desires, published by the Harlequin Blaze line, which features Ronnie's friend and employee, Joan, as the heroine. Also, Ronnie is a secondary character in Night Moves, set at a future date, when she's become a professor of erotic literature. These first couple of books I've read by Ms. Kenner have left me very interested in trying more. If these early works of hers are this tantalizing, I can't help wondering how much better her newer releases written as J. Kenner must be.
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