Death Angel / Linda Howard. 2008
You can usually count on Linda Howard to write something outside the norm and she's clearly done it again. Her latest book, Death Angel, is a romantic suspense novel that seems to ignore most of the genre conventions, yet succeeds very well.
For example, in your typical romance, it is assumed that the hero and heroine will spend quite a bit of the book in one another's company. That doesn't happen here. Typically, we'll also know the names of our protagonists. In this one, the hero is known simply as the assassin until about 1/4 of the way through the book.
As far as suspense goes, while there's a lot of tension generated by Drea/Andie's story of being on the run, I was really drawn in by her transformation from frilly, mob boss' mistress to independent, self-sufficient woman.
Death Angel is primarily Andie's story. When we meet her, she's Drea Rousseau, a woman who has allowed herself to become a whore for financial security. She's acting a part and hides her true self from mobster Rafael Salinas. A very intense, sexual encounter with a man known only as the assassin results in Drea making a fateful decision. She steals an large amount of money from Salinas and goes on the run. Salinas in turn sends the assassin after Drea with orders to kill her. In an interesting twist, Drea is left for dead. She recovers and takes the opportunity to remake herself into Andie Pearson, a totally changed person with a new set of goals for how she wants to live her life.
But the assassin isn't so detached from Drea/Andie. And when he learns she is still alive, he eventually re-enters her life. And together they need to make some decisions. What I absolutely loved about this book was seeing two characters make such drastic changes to their lives. One is shallow, one is cold and immoral. But their experiences and connection to one another transform who they are and makes for some very compelling reading.
This is definitely one of those books that some people will hate. But I strongly recommend it, especially if you want something different. Ms. Howard delivers in spades.