Squawk Radio

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Saturday Book Blog

Teresa Gets CLOSE-UP with Romantic Suspense Author Virginia Kantra

I'm sure it's a carry over from my years of reading Victoria Holt, Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Stewart and Barbara Michaels but I've always adored romantic suspense. To me, there's nothing sexier than romance spiced up with a delicious dollop of danger. (THE BIG EASY anyone?)

I also don't believe it's any accident that many of my favorite suspense authors started out writing category romance (Silhouettes and Harlequins). Authors like Tami Hoag, Tess Gerritsen, Linda Howard, Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts and the incomparable Anne Stuart were all trained as masters in category romance who excelled at never letting the suspense aspects of their stories overwhelm the romance.

So you can imagine my delight when I recently discovered another category author who has crossed over into single title suspense. Virginia Kantra is a 6-time RITA finalist (vying with me for the RWA Susan Lucci award!) Her first single title suspense CLOSE-UP was a finalist this year for Best Romantic Suspense Novel.

CLOSE-UP starts with one of my favorite premises. Two desperate strangers on the run (in the gorgeous mountains of North Carolina no less!) Jack Miller, a suspended cop, is hidden outside a survivalist cult's compound hoping to rescue his abused sister when photographer Lexie Scott comes tumbling over the compound's wall and falls practically into his arms. Lexie has no way of knowing if this massive and muscled man "dressed like a nightmare out of Soldier of Fortune" represents her salvation or her doom. Especially after he tackles her and essentially takes her hostage.

At first Jack dismisses Lexie as a "fluffy little blonde", but her courage and good humor quickly win both Jack's respect and ours. I loved that Lexie wasn't Rambo. She's never ridiculous but behaves like any real woman thrust into a surreal situation, which makes it so much easier to identify with her. You can visibly see her gaining strength and confidence with each trial they face, especially as she is forced to guard a secret that could very well destroy their growing love.

Using a survivalist cult as the villains of the story felt really fresh and was a welcome break from the plethora of serial killers who have overpopulated romantic suspense for the past few years.

Kantra also writes "to die for" action sequences without ever forsaking sensual tension. When Jack is forced to cover Lexie on the forest floor to hide her from their pursuers, you can almost feel his hot breath on the back of YOUR neck. If you like Alpha heroes who can call a woman "babe" without being condescending, then Jack is your man! The action climax of the book left me breathless with tension and excitement and desperately wishing I could see it on the silver screen.

I have to finish by giving Ms. Kantra the highest compliment of all: Reading her for the first time made me feel like a kid who'd just discovered Mary Stewart. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go shop for some of her category romances...

When I approached Virginia and told her she was going to be featured on Squawk Radio today, she graciously agreed to give away an autographed copy of her new romantic thiller HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT to one of our lucky Commenters! She'll be popping by later on so if you have any questions or comments for her, just jot them down in the Comment section. And tell me, who are YOUR favorite romantic suspense authors? Do you prefer straight suspense or does it make you shiver with delight when romance spices up the danger?

Click here to visit Virginia's website.

Teresa Medeiros, 7:00 AM