Linda Howard's books are hit or miss for me, though I know she's a favorite of many readers. For every Howard book that I've enjoyed (After the Night), there's one that I couldn't even finish (Ice). I was surprised then by how much I enjoyed To Die For, a comic romantic suspense novel that was just plain fun to read. It felt different from the other Howard books I've read and I enjoyed seeing the lighter side of Howard's writing.
Summary: Blair Mallory lives the good life. She’s pretty, confident, and the owner of a thriving up-scale fitness center. But in the shadow of success, a troubled member of the club develops a strange fixation on Blair, imitating her style and dress. Matters take a darker turn when the look-alike is shot dead–and Blair witnesses the horror.
As the media speculates on the tawdry details of the homicide and pushes Blair into the harsh spotlight, she locks horns with police lieutenant Wyatt Bloodsworth. He wants to lead an investigation without interference, while Blair is determined to probe the dead woman’s life on her own. But when someone begins to menace Blair with mounting threats, Wyatt takes notice: Was this murder indeed a lethal case of mistaken identity – and was Blair the intended victim? – Goodreads
My thoughts: The book cover for To Die For is rather misleading. I was expecting a standard romantic suspense novel with a hunted heroine and the cop she can't resist. Instead, I found myself laughing at Linda Howard's writing and loving her heroine, Blair Mallory. Blair is like a smarter, savvier Stephanie Plum and – bonus! – there's no drawn-out love triangle to drive a reader nuts. Oh, there's plenty of tension and conflict between Blair and the sexy Lieutenant Wyatt Bloodsworth, but their arguments actually further character development (unlike Stephanie, who has yet to develop over 19 novels).
Blair is one tough cookie. She owns her own business, a successful gym, and she doesn't let anyone push her around. Even being the potential target of a murderer doesn't faze her and she deals with the situation by getting out of town to indulge her inner beach bunny (Tiffany). I can see how some readers might find her quirks grating, but I thought she was downright awesome and the novel's first-person perspective makes it easy to see why. I loved how Blair is nobody's fool and how she also isn't afraid to play on people's misconceptions of her to manipulate situations to her advantage. She knows exactly how to get what she wants from Wyatt and from everyone else, for that matter. Wyatt uses the words "adorable" and "cute" to describe Blair and though those could be condescending, he's actually complimenting her cleverness when he talks about her that way. Heck, even I found Blair cute and adorable.
Wyatt and Blair have a history together, and not a good one. Howard does a good job of fleshing out their original problems without resorting to flashbacks or other tricks. Again, Blair isn't willing to make Wyatt's pursuit of her any easier. Her list of his transgressions against her made me laugh out loud, and Wyatt's attempts to manage her are equally comical. He's trying to protect her, yes, but he's also trying to win her back and, oh man, is their chemistry off the charts. Howard's scenes aren't particularly explicit but she manages to make things hot nonetheless.
It's worth reading To Die For if only for the secondary characters, especially Blair's family. It's easy to see where she gets her attitude from when you read about her mother and sisters, and I found myself wanting to spend a day at the Mallory house. The suspense plot isn't particularly tense – some readers may even find it obvious – but it's good at helping move Blair and Wyatt's relationship forward. Howard also wrote a second Blair Mallory book, Drop Dead Gorgeous, and I downloaded it the second I finished Book One. So far, I'm finding Book Two just as funny and fun as the first, and I only wish Howard had written more books in the series.
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: December 28, 2004
Length: 378 pages