I love romantic suspense as a sub-genre, particularly when the women are strong and the men are a little West of alpha. Guarding Jess by Shannon Curtis has a solid premise – a stalker has targeted Jessica Pennington, etiquette consultant and author, and McCormack Security, a relatively new firm made up of (surprise!) ex-special forces men (I’ll be honest, this never gets tired for me) has been contracted to protect her.
Noah Samuels, recovering from an injury and chaffing to get back in the saddle, gets the assignment and he is less than thrilled. He thinks he knows Jessica’s type, born with a silver spoon in her mouth and concerned solely with appearances, since his estranged father was in the diplomatic corps and later a high-level businessman. But Jessica is more than meets the eye (Noah nicknames her Miss Prissy before he begins to understand her better) and her stalker is very, very serious about taking her down. As Noah must be by her side constantly, the two of them quickly realize the depth of one another’s personalities and how well they mesh together, despite their apparently disperate approaches to life.
I have to confess that I while I enjoyed this book, I’m glad I got a ereader version of it because the cover pisses me off so much that I might not have read it. The author makes careful reference several times to Jessica’s “neat blond bob” so what is up with the cover model’s coloring!?! The male cover model seems like a closer match to Noah, but the tone of the cover isn’t as suspense-y as the content of the book.
Curtis does a terrific job of building up the suspense and horror surrounding Jessica’s stalker. The constant vigilance and suspicion, the invasion of her privacy and the very real threats to her safety all had my adrenaline running. I was a little confused regarding how the person who ended up being the stalker could have had access to Jessica’s personal notes about her clients, but other than that, the plotting and continuity was extremely tight.
Author Shannon Curtis is Australian, but the book is set in San Francisco and there were a few indications that this work was originally destined for a down under or British audience. I was jerked out of the narrative when they had their terrific kiss in the “car park” and a few other phrases hit a wrong note for an American setting (but nothing a Mills & Boon reader couldn’t handle). I enjoy and expect British or Australian slang in books where the characters or setting are clearly from those countries, but it was a little startling in this instance.
For those fans who enjoy a lot of sensuality throughout the romantic suspense, be aware that you need to be patient and wait for the H/h to come together in Guarding Jess. There’s plenty of sexual tension (I’m thinking of that car park kissing scene again), and the culmination of that sizzling undercurrent happens at the end of the book during Jessica’s book launch after they think the stalker has been caught (and yowza, when you finally consummate your relationship against a door at a party, it’s bound to be amazing).
The good news is that with plenty of other hot security guys on the job in this book helping Noah eliminate Jessica’s stalker, I feel safe in saying Shannon Curtis has other books about them in the queue for readers eager for more of her take on romantic suspense. I know I’m looking forward to reading them!