Close Contact by Lori Foster (2017)
When it comes to romance novels, I like mine sexy hot and with a heavy dollop of suspense. It’s no surprise, then, that I settled on Close Contact by Lori Foster while searching for my next read. I’ve read Foster’s work before, but it’s been awhile. Still, I thought I knew what I’d be getting with one of her books—steamy romance, independent female protagonist and a male protagonist with a protector streak two miles wide. Close Contact is the third book in Foster’s Body Armor series, featuring MMA fighters-turned-bodyguards. In the genre of romantic suspense, how could this go wrong, right?
This is the story of Maxi Nevar and Miles Dartman. I’m not a proponent of spoilers, so I’ll just say here that one night, something scary happens to Maxi, who is currently living on a 25-acre farm left to her by her late grandmother. Not sure what to do, she reaches out to her former lover, Miles for help. Miles has recently retired from his career as an MMA fighter (for reasons that remain shrouded in mystery for some time, and when the reveal does happen, it’s a bit disappointing in the sense that Foster could have done so much more with it) and now works for Sahara Silver, owner of Body Armor Security. After a somewhat tense reunion, Miles agrees to play bodyguard, and the pair return to Maxi’s farmhouse. Once there we learn that there are various potential suspects—Maxi’s ex-fiance, Gary, her brother and her sister who want her to sell the farm, and a township cop who seems more than a little shady. Aside from the general threat whose source remains elusive, the farmhouse and barn need lots of repairs, and Miles and his friends offer to do the work while also trying to pinpoint the source of the threat against Maxi.
Unfortunately, as characters, neither Maxi nor Miles is all that complicated, though Miles is a bit more fully developed. What he wants is fairly clear throughout the novel and as the story unfolds he remains true to character and type. Maxi, on the other hand, doesn’t really seem to know what she wants; maybe that’s simply part of her character arc—moving from not knowing to knowing—but for me, she drifts through the story. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not weak or helpless; she’s just not compelling. If we as readers really do read the story for the characters, then one of the problems Close Contact has is that the characters are mostly bland and forgettable. The one character who really stands out and intrigues me is Sahara Silver. On the one hand, that’s good since the next book in this series (Fast Burn) tells her story. On the other hand, it’s a problem because the main characters are a bit boring.
The other problem the book doesn’t manage to solve is the pacing. It’s a really slow read in that it seems to take forever for there to be any action or danger. That is, one of the reasons I picked up the book—because I wanted a romantic suspense novel—was mostly missing for the greater part of the book. I wouldn’t say it was a chore to keep turning the pages, but I would say that eventually I didn’t turn them with the same eagerness. I just kept waiting for something—anything—to happen. I’m not the reader who needs the story to move at a breakneck pace. Indeed, just before reading Close Contact, I read two books by Kristen Ashley, who takes her time laying out the story and whose novels aren’t quick reads (and yet I love so much about her novels and her writing style). I don’t mind spending time in a story, but I do want to feel a sense of forward progress, and I didn’t get that with Close Contact.
At the end of a book in a series (especially if it’s a series I’m new to reading) I always ask myself the question: do I want to read the next book in this series? Although I’m totally intrigued by Sahara Silver and might be willing to put Fast Burn on my reading list, the practical side of my brain acknowledges that it would be a long time before I picked it up. Close Contact is one of those middle of the road romance novels—it’s not horrible, but it’s not memorable; it’s not bad, but it’s not great. It definitely didn’t get a one-star rating from me but it didn’t earn a 5-star rating either (I gave it 3 stars, in case you’re wondering). My final analysis is that if you’re bored and absolutely can’t find anything else to read, this is fine for whiling away a few hours. Just don’t go in with high expectations.