Death Angel, by Linda Howard

2 Sep

Death Angel, by Linda Howard

Perhaps I should start by disclosing that I am a fan of Ms Howard’s writing. While a few of her more recent novels haven’t particularly resonated with me, most of her work does. In fact, a good many of her books are comfort reads for me, novels I read again and again, and enjoy equally every time. This one, once again, hit the spot for me.

Death Angel is a difficult book to review because, while a romance, it doesn’t have many of the traditional sympathy grabbers of so many romance novels. The heroine is a rich—and unscrupulous—man’s mistress. We don’t know the hero’s name for more than half the book. Neither of them has many redeeming qualities. As my significant other asked me (twice during the first half of the book, and once again going on the last quarter), Who are we supposed to be rooting for, again?

On top of this, the protagonists are not together for a good four fifths of the novel. How can this be a romance novel? I can hear the critics say.

And yet, Ms Howard’s writing is so good, the reader can’t help but root for Drea and wonder about…him. It works.

Here’s the ohmygawdawful jacket cover blurb…

(by the way… Why oh why do they write these things? Seriously! This one is one of the worst offenders ever—it gives away too much and it gets a bunch of facts wrong on top! Arrrrggghhh!):

A striking beauty with a taste for diamonds and dangerous men, Drea Rousseau is more than content to be arm candy for Rafael Salinas, a notorious crime lord who deals with betrayal through quick and treacherous means: a bullet to the back of the head, a blade across the neck, an incendiary device beneath a car. Eager to break with Rafael, Drea makes a fateful decision and a desperate move, stealing a mountain of cash from the malicious killer. After all, an escape needs to be financed.

Though Drea runs, Salinas knows she can’t hide–and he dispatches a cold-blooded assassin in hot pursuit, resulting in a tragic turn of events. Or does it?

Left for dead, Drea miraculously returns to the realm of the living a changed woman. She’s no longer shallow and selfish, no longer steals or cheats or sells herself short. Both humbled and thrilled with this unexpected second chance, Drea embraces her new life. But in order to feel safe and sound–and stop nervously looking over her shoulder–she will need to take down those who marked her for death.

Joining forces with the FBI, supplying vital inside information that only she can provide, Drea finds herself working with the most dangerous man she’s ever known. Yet the closer they get to danger, the more intense their feelings for each other become, and the more Drea realizes that the cost of her new life may be her life itself–as well as her heart.

The novel starts with a bang—literally. Drea has lived off men for a long time now, making herself into whomever her target of the moment wants. For Rafael, she’s become a witless doll, even tempered and biddable, controlling her quick temper and hiding her sharp intelligence. Well aware that her tenure as any mans’ mistress is, by its own nature, limited, Drea has been feathering a secret nest with the jewels and glitter Rafael has given her. All is going according to her plan until…

…until Rafael gives use of her to a man known only as ‘the assassin.’

Her illusions about who and what she is shattered, Drea gets mad—then she gets even. Over two million even.

From that moment on, the reader follows Drea through the hoops and obstacles of actually getting her hands on the money, while staying one step ahead from Rafael’s wrath. We learn about banking**, IRS regulations, guns, surveillance, etc. as Drea flees across the country, one dogged hound at her heels.

While the novel follows mainly Drea and the assassin at her heels, Ms Howard gives us a glimpse into Rafael’s thoughts and emotions, as well as those of the FBI team trying to find evidence against him. The latter have the least screen time of all, and yet they are all, each and everyone, so well realized, we can believe their actions, thoughts, reactions, as those of three dimensional people.

And the above is pretty much all I can say about the novel without giving the plot’s twists away.

Did I mention that this is a difficult book to review? Nonetheless, this is an excellent novel, and Ms Howard drags the reader into the rabbit hole with such speed and mastery, we don’t want to get out.

This gets 9 out of 10 from me.

** I should point out that a couple of readers who actually work in banking have debunked a lot, if not most, of the money stuff as written in this novel. (With thanks to Gail and Regina)

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