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Force of Nature    by Suzanne Brockmann order for
Force of Nature
by Suzanne Brockmann
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Ex-cop turned private eye Ric Alvarado doesn't do himself any favors by hiring Annie Dugan as his new office assistant. His childhood friend has grown into a surprisingly beautiful young woman. Before he realizes it, his adolescent crush resurfaces, expanding into a full-blown adult attraction - and he senses the feelings are mutual. Always wary of lasting attachments, Ric figures his best course of action is to fire Annie. Unwilling to leave him shorthanded, she browbeats him into letting her tag along on a case. But the situation quickly turns deadly: one minute Annie is quizzing their mark and the next she and Ric are dodging bullets and averting a hit. In short order they find themselves the special guests of criminal Gordon Burns, whose son's life they saved during the shoot out.

The Feds have been trying to bring down Burns for years. Once they're apprised of Ric's fortuitous contact with the drug lord and terrorist sympathizer, they send special agent Jules Cassidy to head up a task force to oversee Ric and Annie's undercover activities. Unfortunately Jules has no idea that his old flame, Hollywood movie star Robin Chadwick, is in town promoting his new movie - and that the starstruck Burns has invited Chadwick and his entourage to his estate. Jules knows further involvement with his self-destructive, closeted ex-lover will only bring him more heartache. But from the moment they're reunited, neither man can deny that they were meant to be together.

Leads Ric and Annie spark little sexual chemistry and their penchant for adolescent bickering becomes rather tiresome. Unfortunately, the suspense side of the story is also uninspired, both the antagonists and their agenda being clichéd. However, Jules Cassidy has been a popular secondary Troubleshooters character since the series debut. Fans who've been waiting for an important turning point in Jules' personal life will be well pleased with Force of Nature. Brockmann handles the sub-plot focussing on his and Robin's troubled gay relationship with insight, although at times she tends to overstress her message of tolerance and understanding. And whether they've finally found their happy ending remains to be seen.

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