There is a definite stereotype (perhaps, deserved for some of them) of romance novelists as being inferior writers. After all, everything about their scripting IS a stereotype. Beautiful, meek woman meets ridiculously handsome man. They hate each other at first sight then fall passionately in love, tip toe around sex for half the book, then finally when they do it (missionary style of course), they have massive, simultaneous and multiple orgasms. Change the location, time period, and careers, and you got a nice lucrative and cushy writing job. As a result, it is always interesting when a romance (i.e., soft-core porn) novelist turns mainstream. Will the writer be able to create interesting and dynamic characters and storylines outside of the romance novel paint-by-numbers formula? I would say that Ann Voss Peterson, who previously wrote Harlequin Intrigue novels, manages to pull this off quite finely with Pushed Too Far.
Pushed Too Far is set in the brutal Wisconsin winter. Police chief Valerie Ryker is called to the scene of a drowning in a lake. Shockingly, the body is of a woman who was thought to be burned alive two years prior. Her alleged killer, Dixon Hess, was prosecuted and has been in jail ever since. He is released, since obviously he cannot have committed the original crime. Dixon quickly begins to seek revenge on everyone involved in his trial. At the same time, Val is trying to solve two crimes at the same time (the original murder, and the new drowning).
I certainly enjoyed this book. It was a fun read, with interesting and exciting characters and even a steamy sex scene (yay for authors with previous sex-writing experience!!!). Val’s character is interested, and incredibly layered. She’s a strong, independent woman with a difficult secret that she has kept from everyone in her life. She struggles with balancing her new roles as police chief and adoptive mother with her desire to stop Hess no matter what. Hess is somewhat of a mustache-twirling villain, and is perhaps a bit TOO good at getting away with killing off everyone in sight without getting caught. There are a few twists at the end that were quite “ooh” inducing. Also, a nice mini-crossover with Jacqueline Daniels (the main character in J.A. Konrath’s Jack Daniels series). The two authors apparently work together on a spy series together (Codename: Chandler) featuring a kickass female assassin (have not read these though), so this cameo makes perfect sense. Again, it’s always great to read books with strong female leads.