Author: Julie Garwood
Penguin Australia RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

Book Cover:  HotshotI don’t think I’ve ever read a novel by Julie Garwood before, but according to her publisher, she’s among the most critically acclaimed – and popular – romance authors around, with thirty-six million copies of her books in print. Her latest release, Hotshot, is a mix of family drama, suspense and romance, which, as far as elements go, is probably enough to lure fans and new readers. The blurb was enough to make me interested, but did it live up to expectation?

A graduate of a prestigious French culinary school, Peyton Lockhart has just left a nightmarish magazine job and is out of work. While attending a wedding in her home-town, she reconnects with Finn MacBain, who once saved her life. He’s concerned by the presence of bullet holes in her car, which were the result of being pursued by her ex-boss’s henchman. He pushes Peyton for the story and promises to investigate; his protective role quickly turns into more, as the attraction between the two is immediate.

It can’t really go anywhere though. Peyton and her sisters have inherited Bishop’s Cove, a small, luxurious oceanfront resort in Florida, but it comes with a condition: the girls must run the resort for one year and show a profit. Only then will they own it. The three sisters must move to Florida to make it work. Meanwhile, Finn has been investigating Peyton’s case and, following the discovery of another gunshot and a visit from the sleazy ex-boss, Drew Albertson, he arranges added security measures to keep her safe. Peyton just wants Drew stopped and so begins a tricky dance of out-manoeuvring a class manipulator.

He’s not the only manipulator Peyton and her sisters have to deal with: her cousin Debi wants in on the resort and will stop at nothing to get her way, and nor will a greedy land developer who has been eyeing off the coveted property. With sabotage, delays and family dramas impeding progress, will the sisters achieve their dream? And will Peyton and Finn’s romance have a happy ending?

Hotshot has received mixed reviews, with fans of Garwood’s earlier works expressing disappointment at this latest release. I have nothing to compare with, but overall I found the book to be an average read. It’s an easy read, and good for passing time, but the novel didn’t really gel for me. The characters and plot seemed a bit clichéd and I didn’t see a great amount of character development. The whole Peyton-Drew saga, while horrible, was a bit overdone; it didn’t evoke the feelings in me, as a female reader, that I would have expected from that specific storyline. There were so many things going on and the resolution of the different plot points seemed rushed. Even the romance didn’t have that “sweep-me-off-my-feet” quality that I hoped for.

However, in saying that, many other readers on Goodreads have found the book to be an enjoyable read, so I think this one is going to come down to personal preference. I’ve just read a number of other romantic thrillers lately and this didn’t stand out from the crowd. If I had to describe it in one word, I’d say “Okay”. I would be interested in reading some of Garwood’s earlier novels, especially her historicals, though.

Available from good bookstores and Penguin Books Australia. This copy was courtesy of Penguin Australia.

Bookish treat: Peyton serves Finn some mango and orange slices dipped in chocolate. Sound good to me.