Tour’s Books Blog

June 13, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Big Bad Wolf by Gennita Low

Every writer gets his or her start somewhere and Big Bad Wolf was Gennita Low’s first book. This is a new edition of the book published in 1999 and the start of her romantic suspense career. And it all started with a woman with a nail gun and some shingles.

Jaymee Barrows made a mistake while she was in college. She fell in love with a man who turned out to be a con artist who took her father for all he had and then some. Her father has been wallowing in self pity and blaming it all on Jaynee ever since. She made a promise to pay it all back, which meant taking over her dad’s roofing business and working long hard days in the Florida sun before coming home and taking care of all those business details that small business owners deal with – paying bills, doing payrolls, ordering material. Not to mention all the cooking and cleaning for her father who does nothing all day except sit around and feel sorry for himself and reminding Jaymee it’s all her fault – even her mother’s death. She nearly done with her penance and the business is almost whole again – just another year or two is all she needs and she can walk away.

Killian Nicholas Langley is a computer specialist in a covert ops team. Something went very wrong on his last assignment and he damn near got killed. He needs to lay low and stay off the radar until he can contact the one man he trusts. He isn’t sure of much, but he’s sure he was betrayed by someone in the group. Right now, he needs a job that pays cash, one without any questions attached – like a social security number or references. Roofing is one of those jobs often done by itinerant workers, so he decides to approach one at a construction site. The boss is a woman, Jaymee Barrows.

One look tells Jaymee this guys does not do manual labor for a living, despite his buff body. His hands are way too clean. Some fast talking on his part gets her to agree. That and the assumption he’ll quit within days – working in the summer sun of Florida on your knees on a roof isn’t exactly fun. But he proves he wrong. He might not have experience, but he hangs in there. It turns out he can help her with the new computer she got as well. Relieved to get the kind of tech help she can’t afford, she pays him in food – sharing dinner with her and her father.

Nick can’t believe his luck. A room with all he needs to get into the secured network and send a coded contact out. The reply tells him his suspicions were correct – there’s a mole in the organization he needs to keep playing dead. This doesn’t bother him much. Jaymee draws him as no one has and he’d like to know her better. She’s one of the hardest working people he’s ever met, and genuine. Jaymee is just as drawn to Nick, but she hasn’t gone near a guy since she made that stupid mistake that cost her so much more than money.

Slowly, Jaymee allows herself to trust Nick and they start an affair. That he isn’t what he seems bothers her. She doesn’t have a whole lot of trust in men and rather figures’ going in this is just a temporary thing for them both. When his cousin shows up with his daughter Grace in tow – in cammo and training to live off the land – Jaymee decides to do what she can to help the men, and Grace – who is too old for her years. But the opposition finds them anyway. The climax is interesting.

For a first book, Big Bad Wolf remains a good read – and believe me, not a lot of the stuff out there is still good after 10 years. You can see Low’s talent for suspense, one that would evolve to where it is today. She does good and unusual characters, like Grace and Jed, and has a strong, intelligent, independent woman in Jaymee. I also like the fact that Low gave Jaymee a tough physical job, one that requires endurance as well as the smarts and business sense to deal with builders and inspectors in what is a tough, male dominated field.  The part where Nick and Jaymee handle the roofing inspector investigating complaints about the nailing – likely made by the two men she fired for undernailing – was a gem.  I didn’t like her tolerance of her father’s constant verbal abuse, though I can see where a misplaced sense of guilt would allow that kind of emotional blackmail to continue.  Plus Nick’s defense of her is something of a plot pivot point, so it served a purpose.

If characters are the strength of this novel, the weakest link is the whole ‘decode the board to take out the satellites’ that threaten the US. Naturally, this is before 9/11, and before many of the encryption advance today, but it’s a rather flimsy secret at the core of all this that the bad guys are after.

Fans of Low will see the beginning of what has evolved into her current interlinked covert ops stories. The characters of Jed and Grace show up in later novels. Low has substantially improved her plotting over the years, though like several authors that have ‘serialized’ stories, you need to read her books in order to fit all the pieces together and get the most out of them. If romantic suspense writers would use flow charts so the reader can see how and where each story fits in the timeline, rather like family trees used by historical writers, and also a who’s who, it would help those who read sporadically. Besides, it’s tough keeping all these damn covert op groups and their player’s straight.

My Grade: C+ (3.5*)

Who would enjoy this book: Fans of romantic suspense that’s a bit light on the suspense. Do keep in mind this is a reprint in trade paperback format, so it’s expensive for a reprint. The rating is PG-17

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