Book/Author and Year Published: Sizzle by Julie Garwood (2009)

Reviewer: Bethany

Age/Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense

Preferred Reading Environment: On your porch swing or hammock

Reading Accoutrements: Lemonade and cookies! Maybe a blanket if it’s breezy out.

Content Notes: Hostage situation, suggestions of sexual assault, violence

Today is Patriot Day in the United States, so I knew I wanted to review a contemporary romantic suspense novel with an FBI or CIA agent as a character. When I saw Sizzle, by Julie Garwood, in the queue of books I have crowding up my Kindle app, I knew it was the one. Julie Garwood always engages me with her strong protagonists – both male and female – and the unlikely events that she puts them through.

For example, Special Agent Samuel Wellington Kincaid and Lyra Prescott, who are thrown together when Lyra and her roommate, Sidney Buchanan, are attacked. Lyra is a film student in California with a complicated family life. She is finishing up her projects for her final semester when she comes home to find her apartment door broken and two men holding her roommate hostage. She surprises the men before they can hurt Sidney but the men escape before the police arrive. Then, Sidney shocks Lyra by revealing that the thieves were planning to take Lyra if they couldn’t find the object they were looking for. Luckily, Sidney is a member of a family full of lawmen. One of her brothers, an FBI agent, calls his fellow FBI Special Agents to keep Sidney and Lyra safe while the police investigate the break-in.

Kincaid was on a tour of FBI offices throughout the US to lecture about his recent heroics in an operation gone wrong. When his friend called and asked for this favor, he was headed to California for the last two speeches of his tour. He agreed to make a detour to help protect Lyra, but he didn’t expect her to be so attractive. Kincaid has never had trouble keeping a professional distance from witnesses in the past, but Lyra’s personality draws him to her. As Kincaid and Lyra work to untangle the web of people looking for her, they find themselves falling for each other.

There are a few tropes in this book that had me rolling my eyes (three, to be specific). The first trope is, “The girl who is selective about who she sleeps with AND is totally oblivious to the fact that guys think she’s hot.” One of the things that really bugged me about Lyra was her total dissociation with the emotions of people around her…while she was simultaneously described as a great documentarian because she’s an avid observer of the world…If she’s such an avid observer, how come she doesn’t notice that the guys who she has turned down in the past are still drooling over her every time she walks into a room? I appreciated that Lyra was confident in herself and wouldn’t settle for a guy who just wanted her body. I didn’t appreciate that she was completely oblivious to men coming on to her.

The second trope is, “The rich girl with crappy parents but a good head on her shoulders.” Lyra’s parents are a disaster. They spent their entire inheritance on traveling the world and attending parties. Meanwhile, Lyra’s grandparents raised her and her siblings. When Lyra’s parents ran out of money, they tried to have Lyra’s grandmother declared legally incompetent in order to gain control of her money. Because Lyra was raised by her grandparents, however, she “has a good head on her shoulders.” This one doesn’t really bug me because of this story specifically, but because romance novels always seem to have one protagonist who is unbelievably wealthy – an heiress or a self-made CEO – and one who is not – a public servant or student with too much loan debt. I’m sure having a character with unlimited resources makes the happily ever after a little easier to wrap up, but can’t I get a love story I can put my poor self into every once in a while?

The third, and most irritating, trope is, “The super hot guy who was widowed at a young age so he, doesn’t do commitment anymore.” Seriously, I get that the book needs conflict, but I wish so many romance novels didn’t rely on conflict purely stemming from the characters’ fight to resist love. But this book had a built-in plot point that basically negated the need for this trope. WHY must it always be included? WHY does a protagonist always have to be afraid of love and commitment? I understand being afraid of rejection, but this is just overdone now. Find another excuse to prolong the inevitable, authors!

Honestly, despite the eye-roll-worthy trope usage, the characters in this book are engaging and I would have loved to know more about…well, pretty much everything in this book. I would’ve enjoyed more information about Lyra’s professor’s documentary, more about Kincaid’s personal life, more about Lyra’s parents…which reminds me: I mentioned before that Lyra was raised by her grandparents. Lyra is actually named after her grandmother. The thing that confused me was that Lyra’s parents clearly don’t have fond feelings for their matriarch, so I’m not sure why they decided to name their daughter after her. I wouldn’t have complained if I’d gotten some backstory that made Lyra’s parents a bit more redeeming.

That is pretty much my assessment of this book: I want more. The story itself was interesting, with some unique twists and turns – despite the use of tropes in the character development – and the romance had some realistic hurdles without getting too bogged down in Kincaid’s fears or Lyra’s hang-ups.

Have you ever read a book that used tropes, but made it interesting for you? Tell me about it!

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