Publication Date: September 5, 2011
Rating: 3 out of 5
Have you ever had a friend who’s smart and well-educated but makes incredibly dumb decisions? If so, you’ve met Isabelle DeRosa, heroine of Adrienne Giordano’s A Just Deception, the second book in Ms. Giordano’s Private Protector series. I absolutely loved the first book, Man Law (read my review), so I was really looking forward to reading the second book in this series. Unfortunately, I feel really conflicted about this second book. Like the first, the outstanding portrayal of the relationships between the male characters and the smoldering sexual tension between the hero and heroine are its strengths, but I was really uncomfortable with several of the decisions the heroine makes over the course of the book.
Isabelle De Rosa is a lawyer working in her uncle’s high-profile criminal defense firm. When her creepy cousin Kendrick makes a surprise appearance at the firm, she contacts Taylor Security for help updating her home alarm system. They send former SEAL Peter Jessup to help her out, and the two immediately set off sparks. Before they can act on their attraction, Kendrick turns up murdered and both Peter and Izzy are suspects in his death. When the FBI approaches Izzy to go undercover at Kendrick’s charity’s compound in Ohio, she accepts the job in an attempt to prove her innocence in Kendrick’s death. But the more she learns about the cult-like charity, the more she’s going to need Peter’s help to expose the truth. Neither one counts on falling in love complicating everything.
This novel has many strong points, and my favorite is undoubtedly the great interaction between Peter and the other members of Taylor Security. The dialogue between the male characters is hilarious and really well done. We don’t always see such strong relationships between male supporting characters in romance, but Ms. Giordano seems to pull this off effortlessly. The give and take between the men spills over into the male-female relationships as well, since the dialogue between Peter and Izzy and the other female characters is engaging and witty. This also reflects the excellent pacing of the novel. The mix between suspense, action, and romance is just right, ensuring that you’ll keep turning the pages, while the sexual tension between Peter and Izzy leaps off the page.
The problems I have with the book all have to do with Isabelle’s character. She was sexually abused by her cousin Kendrick for more than seven years as a child. Ms. Giordano does an outstanding job of portraying Izzy as a survivor rather than a victim, and you’ll want to cheer when Izzy manages to fight off Kendrick’s advances. However, she makes several decisions over the course of the book that struck me as so bizarre and frustrating that it interfered with my enjoyment of the book, hence my comments at the beginning of this review. We learn that Kendrick’s father, Izzy’s uncle, convinces Izzy and her mother to cover up Kendrick’s abuse when it’s discovered, which is frustrating but unfortunately doesn’t strike me as all that unusual. What drives me nuts, though, is that despite this, Izzy works in her uncle’s law firm! I just do not understand this decision. She explains this away as saying that her uncle “owes” her career because she saved his by covering up the abuse. She believes that working at the top criminal defense firm in the state will catapult her career. This seems like the stupidest decision a rape survivor could make, especially since the chances of her running into her abuser, her boss’s son, are pretty darn high.
The second highly questionable decision she makes occurs when Kendrick attempts to rape her again, this time as an adult. Thanks to her determination never to be a victim again, she’s able to beat the stuffing out of him, get away, and call Peter for help. We then learn that Kendrick got into the house because he used his father’s key!!! It gets worse, though. She refuses to call the police, insisting that she and Peter return Kendrick to her uncle, because she doesn’t want to involve the family. What?!?! The family IS involved, because your cousin tried to rape you!! This becomes all the more confusing when she acknowledges to Peter that she worries that her family’s decision not to prosecute Kendrick has allowed him to sexually abuse others. If she’s that concerned about it, why does she refuse to involve the police? I could understand if, as a criminal defense lawyer, she decided not to press charges because of how a trial could destroy her life, but she never even mentions this, instead focusing on not involving the family.
Because of her past, Izzy’s sexuality is understandably an issue throughout the novel. Ms. Giordano does an excellent job of portraying Izzy’s problems with intimacy with Peter, which I find to be highly believable. Her intimacy issues complicate her relationship with Peter later in the novel when she makes questionable decisions about how to elicit information from the leader of Kendrick’s charity. I found this section to be difficult to read because of its content but well executed, even if as a reader you want her to make better choices.
Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get over Izzy’s decisions concerning her family. She’s portrayed as a survivor who’s working hard to overcome her past, which is admirable, but her insistence in remaining in such close contact with family members who have betrayed her in unforgiveable ways strained my credulity and seriously affected my enjoyment of the novel.