Veil of Night: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – Jun 28 2011
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About the Author
Linda Howard is the award-winning author of many New York Times bestsellers, including Ice, Burn, Death Angel, Up Close and Dangerous, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Cover of Night, Killing Time, To Die For, Kiss Me While I Sleep, Cry No More, Dying to Please, Open Season, Mr. Perfect, All the Queen’s Men, Now You See Her, Kill and Tell, and Son of the Morning, and co-author (with Linda Jones) of Blood Born. She lives in Alabama with her husband and a golden retriever.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Six weddings in five days. Holy shit.
All Jaclyn Wilde could think was that her mother, Madelyn, who was her partner in Premier, the events planning firm to hire in the greater Atlanta area if you wanted your guests to be impressed, must have been sipping a couple or twelve champagne martinis when she’d accepted so many bookings so close together. It wouldn’t have been nearly as bad if the bookings had been anything other than weddings: a party was simple in comparison to a wedding, because they were relatively free of emotional turmoil. A wedding, on the other hand, was fraught with every emotion known to man. It wasn’t just the brides; it was the bride’s mother, the groom’s mother, the maid of honor, the bridesmaids, the parents of the flower girl and the ring bearer, the cousins who weren’t invited to be in the wedding party, what colors to choose, the date, the location, the damn font on the friggin’ invitations . . .
“Jaclyn Wilde,” the clerk called, interrupting Jaclyn’s increasingly stressed and frantic thoughts.
The clerk’s voice was too cheerful. Didn’t she realize it was inappropriate to sound cheerful when you were collecting payments for traffic violations? Maybe it was asking too much that she sound glum, but she could at least sound bored and noncom?mittal, instead of all but dancing with glee at taking someone’s money.
Jaclyn stifled her irritation; it stemmed more from the almost impossible workload facing her during the coming week than it did from paying her speeding ticket. Adding to her stress was the fact that because they’d been working so hard, she’d forgotten to mail in the money for the speeding ticket, and today was the day it was due, so she’d either had to take time off from work—thereby increasing the stress by getting behind—or have a warrant issued for her arrest. Yeah, that would be a real stress-reducer.
Being late was her fault. If the city of Hopewell, where she lived and where she’d received the ticket, had been set up to receive online payments, she could have handled it that way, but it wasn’t. She got up, silently forked over the cash, and a minute later was striding down the hall, the speeding ticket already forgotten because that particular item had just been checked off her to-do list.
She glanced down at her watch. She had just enough time to get to her next appointment—Carrie Edwards, a bitch for all seasons, and one of the reasons why six weddings in five days was looming as Mission Impossible. Carrie’s wedding wasn’t even one of the six; her wedding wasn’t for another month, but Carrie was taking up way too much of their time with her histrionics and constant flip-flopping on decisions. One bridesmaid had already told her—Carrie, not Jaclyn—to go fuck herself, which was a first in ?Jac?lyn’s experience. Usually, no matter what the bride did, the members of the wedding party would grit their teeth and see it through. Even when they did drop out, they’d make polite excuses. Not this girl; she’d let Carrie have it with both barrels, and hadn’t minced words.
When the blow-up happened, Jaclyn had stepped out of sight, allowed herself a wide smile and a fist pump, then schooled her expression and returned to try to forestall a hair-pulling, eye-gouging cat fight. She’d have loved to see Carrie with a black eye, but business was business.
If she hadn’t been so wrapped up in her thoughts she might have been faster on her feet, but when a door suddenly swung outward she was caught by surprise and slammed into the tall, dark-haired, dark-suited man who stepped into the corridor. She gave a short, sharp “Oomph!” The impact knocked her briefcase from her hand and sent it spinning across the gray-tiled floor. She felt one foot, elegantly shod in three-inch heels, begin to slip, and in panic instinctively grabbed the man’s arm to steady herself. Her free arm slipped inside his open jacket and she grabbed a handful of shirt fabric, holding on for dear life. The side of her arm brushed against something very hard, and there was a very brief glimpse of leather before she made the startled identification of holster, followed by gun, then cop. Considering she was in city hall, the conclusion was both logical and inescapable.
The arm she grabbed turned to iron as the man immediately tensed it to hold her weight; he half-turned, his other arm sliding around her waist to catch her. For a brief moment, no more than the second needed for her to catch her balance, she was held firmly against a very warm, very solid, indisputably male body.
He released her the moment she was sure-footed, but he didn’t back away. Not immediately, anyway. She blew out a shaky breath. “Wow. Whew.” Her heartbeat, thrown into high gear thanks to the collision and almost falling, was pounding against her rib cage so hard she could feel the thuds. A spill on the floor of city hall would’ve been par for the course on this perfectly crappy day, but the last thing she needed right now was to break an ankle or something. Even a sprained ankle, at this point, would throw Premier into a time-crunch they simply wouldn’t be able to handle.
“Are you all right, ma’am?”
He bent his head down as he spoke and his breath, scented with spearmint chewing gum, brushed her temple. His voice was a warm baritone, with a slight rasp that roughened it just enough to take the tone from mellow to something . . . more. She didn’t know just what that more was, just that it was there— Wait a minute. Had he just called her ma’am?
Did she look that haggard?
Jaclyn squashed her initial annoyed reaction. The badge he wore explained the “ma’am.” Actually, being almost anywhere in the South explained it. He wasn’t commenting on her appearance; he was a cop, a civil servant on his best behavior. She blew out another breath, and realized she hadn’t yet released her grip on either his arm or his shirt. He couldn’t step back, not as long as she clung to him. She forced her fingers to unclench from both shirt and arm, and she took the necessary step back to put some distance between them.
“I’m fine,” she said as she looked up at him. “Thanks for catching me. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going.” A small part of her brain, the part reserved for hormones and irrational decisions, gave a wolf whistle. Abruptly she felt both over-heated and overexcited. Damn, he was fine-looking, in a way that wasn’t at all boyish and depended more on strength and an air of competency than it did on regular features. There were boys, and there were men. This was a man. This was a man who had it, that indefinable quality of sex appeal, maturity, and strength all mingled together into a potent whole.
He gave a slight smile, a nice and natural, easy curve of his lips. “Not the best layout here, as far as traffic goes.”
“Don’t mention traffic to me,” Jaclyn said, almost under her breath.
He shot a quick glance of comprehension in the direction from which she’d come, and his smile widened a little. She liked that smile more than she should.
In her line of business, Jaclyn met a lot of men; unfortunately, they were usually about to get married. Not always, of course, but it took something special to get her attention this way: a certain look, an unexpected chemistry . . . and to be honest, it had been a very long time since she’d had the time to admire any man.
She didn’t have time now, either. She had to really hurry, or she’d be late.
“Thanks again. Sorry I almost smashed you flat.” She gave the polite cop a quick nod of her head, a friendly—but not too friendly—good-bye, then looked around for her dropped briefcase.
The case had spun all the way across the wide hall, coming to a stop against the far wall. Before she could reach for it, a man in stained jeans and a dingy T-shirt stretched tight over an enormous beer belly laboriously bent down and picked up the case. “Here ya go, ma’am,” he said, holding the slender case out to her in one meaty paw and smiling a ridiculously sweet smile for such a rough face.
“Thank you,” Jaclyn said as she gripped the handle, giving the burly guy a warmer smile than she’d given the cop, because she wasn’t attracted to him at all, so being nice to him didn’t seem as dangerous as being nice to the cop. As she strode away down the hall she mused on how cock-eyed that reasoning was, on a logical basis, but how rock solid it was on some gut-level feminine instinct. She didn’t have time for the cop, didn’t have time to be attracted to him, so she wasn’t about to do anything that might attract him.
As she walked away, she was almost certain that he was watching her, but she didn’t dare turn around to look. She didn’t need to turn around; she could practically feel the bull’s-eye his gaze was painting on her back.
She hurried out to the parking lot, using her remote to unlock her steel-gray Jaguar just before she reached it. In almost one motion she opened the door, tossed her briefcase onto the passenger seat, and slid behind the wheel. Her first action then was to hit the door lock, a safety precaution she’d taken so often it was second nature to her now. As she turned the key with one hand, she was pulling the seat belt into place with the other.
She didn’t need another ticket, so she kept an eye on the speedometer. She especially wasn’t going to speed on the way to a meeting with Carrie Edwards; it was all she could do to keep the car hea...
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
There is a morning after scene that made me oh so fondly recall the Linda Howard humor of the past. Eric is lying in bed contemplating how he likes women well enough for the good parts but really wishes he could avoid the complications like having to spend an hour or so the next morning talking and relating because he is a busy man and he just doesn't have time for all that stuff. Jaclyn then pops into the bedroom, hands him a cup of coffee in a To Go cup and takes off for the shower and asks him to make sure to lock the door on the way and oh sorry, she just doesn't have time for a chat because she is a busy woman! At this point in the book, I gave a small grin and settled in for hopefully a really enjoyable Linda Howard ride.
Unfortunately, it went downhill from there. First the characters - there is Eric who is pretty much a Wyatt from the Blair Mallory books wannabee. Detective cop, perfect body, perfect face .. wisecracks on demand. In fact, halfway through the book I kind of renamed him in my head as "Eric/Wyatt." Jaclyn thank God is only 25% as irritating as Blair Mallory ever was in that she at least doesn't spend chapters explaining to the readers how beautiful, intelligent and successful she is - that is left up to Eric/Wyatt to tell us. And tell us. And tell us. So we get a whole lot of "Jaclyn is very pretty and classy and I know she'd never murder anybody but I still have to do my job gosh darn it!" Its a real internal struggle for a guy who has spent a total of one night with the woman.
Then there is a good portion of the book where Jaclyn first explains that as a wedding planner it is her job to give the Bride what she wants (the Grooms are hardly ever mentioned other than as poor saps who should probably run) and then paragraphs of Jaclyn internally mocking the taste of the Bride. There is a more than a little class snobbery in Jaclyn's persona ... Nascar (tacky), Wedding on Grandpa's farm (Hee Haw Hell which somehow translates into a doomed marriage), high society extravaganzas (true love).
As far as relationship development goes, there is the scene I described at the beginning of the book and a really quick chapter summary at the end where Eric/Wyatt explains what will probably happen in the future. Pure tell, little show. Very boring. The ninety percent of the middle of this book is taken up with the internal struggles of the two characters. Jaclyn hates Eric/Wyatt because she is a busy woman (6 weddings in 5 days) and he has the audacity to bother her with questions about a murdered woman. She glares at him. She snaps at him. There is one excruciating scene where the "stress" of being involved in a murder investigation gets to her and she stomps her feet, screams at him, calls him names, shoulder butts him a couple of times and generally acts like a petulant 4 year old who missed her nap. I guess this was supposed to be sexual tension or something but I have to say my response as a reader was more along the line of "Huh?" Are there really men who find that attractive and amusing?
As a couple, these two never go on a date, they don't discuss religious beliefs, movies, hobbies or tastes in music. They don't kiss, hold hands, have fun together or show any affection and the boom! Jaclyn has a near death experience and next thing you know she's decided she loves the guy. Criminy. And then she has the audacity to question the validity of the Hee Haw wedding couple's love?
As far as solving the murder goes - as other reviewers have already mentioned this whole thing was painfully obvious pretty much from the the beginning. So obvious that I spent a good deal of the book thinking that it had to be a red herring and I was in for a surprise. Pfffftttt. Oh well. Eric/Wyatt figures it out pretty quickly too, saves the day, blah blah blah blah blah.
Read at your own risk but if you're hoping for a Linda Howard turn around this isn't it in my opinion.
To those who criticize the lightness of the plot, I say: "Be happy the old Linda Howard has come out retirement and remember the plots of her "classic stories" were often predictable, but always sexy and fun." So is her new book.
I've been a fan of Ms. Howard for years. Her novels have always been full of intrigue and suspense as well as juicy sex scenes. Veil of Night has all the right points in the suspense part. Although, the murder doesn't happen until half way into the book which makes the first half go by almost painfully. The rest of the book is composed of interrogations and questioning and fits in right with Ms. Howard's style. The romance aspect of the novel is what is really lacking. There is chemistry between the two main characters and one very nice sex scene in the beginning of the novel...but that's it for the rest of the novel. I kept reading and hoping for at least one more sex scene...but no. Very disappointing, but I'll still be waiting to see what comes next.
Jaclyn Wilde is an events planner with her mother and they have 6 weddings scheduled in 5 days. In addition to this, Jaclyn needs to finalize the details for the ultimate Bridezilla wedding to take place in a month. When the tension escalates between her and the demon bride, she finds herself getting assualted and fired by said bride and calls her mom afterwards to celebrate only to find out later that the bride was murdered right after their incident and she's the primary suspect. To make matters worse, she's being investigated by the hot detective that she had a one night stand with only the night before.
This book had a lot of potential. There is a lot of the humor, wit and points of view of both the hero and heroine of the story to add to their attraction to one another. Unfortunately these moments are so far and few between. I'm not sure what has happened to her writing style but we often find ourselves having to endure the mind of the killers or bad guys as well as her peripheral family that add absolutely no value to the story and only detract from the main characters. For example paragraphs from the mother's point of view on how she loves her daughter, paragraphs from the bad guy thinking over and over again how they've worked hard for what they accomplished and won't let anything stand in their way. And of course, paragraphs and paragraphs of thinking of one another that is humdrum and boring. Linda Howard's books used to be about the hero and heroine working together and building their relationship. This book highlights how they work separately and how they each deal with their situations by themselves. For what is supposedly romatic suspence, the only tension is at the end of the book but by then, you already know who the killer is and it's just a matter of proving it.
Last but not least, I'm not even sure how the Veil of Night got it's title and cover. It seems far more dark, dangerous and sexy than it really is. If anything, this book is lighthearted and fluffy and has nothing to do with it's name. Veil of Night is better than the last three novels by Linda Howard, but if you've read them, it's not saying a whole lot.