Tour’s Books Blog

October 7, 2009

Book Review: Grace Under Pressure by Melissa Schroeder

  • Title: Grace Under Pressure
  • Author: Melissa Schroeder
  • Type: Contemporary Romance
  • Genre: Romantic mystery with humor and hometown feel
  • Sub-genre: Small town, sneaky ex, reluctant lover
  • My Grade: C+ to B- (3.5*)
  • Rating: PG-13 to NC-17
  • Where Available: Mostly used book stores or sites like Half.com
  • FTC Disclosure: This book was part of a book swap on PBS

Grace Under Pressure isn’t my first Melissa Schroeder book, but it was a surprise as it was far more gentle and sweet than I was expecting.  This is something like a romance with a mystery cozy – not quite true romantic suspense, like Anne Stuart or Rozanne St Claire, but more like Denise Swanson’s Scrumble River meets contemporary romance.  Published by Samhain with a sexy cover, it does contain a few hot sex scenes, it is most definitely NOT erotic romance.

Grace Michaels is a college professor in her small Texas hometown.  Since high school she had the reputation of being a bookish nerd.  It doesn’t help that she dresses her Jane Powell-like figure in boxy, shapeless suits.  Or that she lives across from her parents house, now being rented to the new Chief of Police.  Ren Morello took the job as Chief of Police of Cannon, Texas to get away from from the frustration of big city law enforcement and the revolving door of repeat offenders.  That and his ex-wife who he caught with his equally ex-best friend.  Eight years in the MP’s and big city police work is enough.  He wants a slower life and Cannon looked like the right place.  It looks a whole lot better with his landlady’s ass up in the air in the Texas sage in front of his new house.  She might be wearing the ugliest suit ever, but that’s some shape she got there.  And if falling into his lap is her idea of a big welcome, bring it on!

Grace has had those moments her whole life.  Skirt hems stuck in her pantyhose so her butt is exposed to everyone at her high school graduation, catching her ex-fiance screwing her graduate assistant then blaming her, finding out the SOB stole her research – moments she’d rather forget.  Her best friend, blond and beautiful Julia, still lives in Cannon as well and she has her own memories to try and forget.  Bad memories.  Her parents nasty marriage, her mother’s death from cancer, her father’s disinterest, but she did spend her last years in high school living with the Michaels, making her friendship with Grace even stronger.  Plus she’s had this crush on Gabriel Michaels since high school, but he’s thought her some kind of slut since she came home to his parents house after becoming the victim of high school date rape.

Now Grace has found a diary, possibly a very important one about the disowned daughter of the Cannon family.  Now Grace is trying to trace what happened to her – and why she was disowned, to the point where records were erased.  Funny, she makes another original find and who shows up on a sabbatical but her slimy ex, Triple D, Darian Daniel Dawson, a man who likes to have other people do his work for him while be basks in his unearned success.  But Ren comes her rescue – twice.  She makes an offer of no strings attached sex and he runs for cover and spends the next two weeks avoiding her.

The problems start when Grace is surprised when she walks into her locked office to find her computer on and its files searched as well has her paper files in disarray.  Cannon is a very safe small town, even the college, so she just shrugs it off.  Then she comes hme to find her dog in the yard and screen off her office window.  Someone broke into her house, searched her office and pretty much ignored everything else.

Gabriel and Julia both decide she shouldn’t be alone.  Then Grace gets pushed down the stairs in the library and ends up in the hospital with a possible concussion, a worried police chief and her parents back in town.  But it’s Ren who ends up protecting her body.  The solution to the crimes are obvious to any mystery fan, but done well and adds some interest to the plot and the romance.  Ren and Grace took a long time to get together and the initial bloom comes off pretty fast when commitment-phobic Ren does his two steps back emotional distance dance.  His apology isn’t exactly met with open arms.

Gabriel and Julia add a lot to this story, especially the Julia character.  The two elderly professors were also nice addition.  Grace and Ren feel very alive and familiar, almost, but not quite trite.  The story is well paced, well written and has both heart and humor, but broke no new ground.  Grace is no pushover for apologies and Ren is thankfully just a guy without any alphahole tendencies.  Grace Under Pressure isn’t some deep or profound story, just an entertaining romance with some mystery thrown in. I have some of Ms Schroeder’s books in ebook format that I’ve been very slow to get into, largely because of the D/s element.  Maybe this will encourage to try as she does write well.

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