HelenKay: Many romantic suspense reads suffer from an inability to combine those two main aspects with ease and in such a way that they can’t be separated without destroying one or the other. Not here. Extreme Exposure is a lesson in how to write a tight, sexy romance with a real-world, believable suspense story.
After receiving a tip from a whistleblower, investigative reporter Kara McMillan follows the trail of paperwork, people and test results into a full-fledged environmental scandal. She uncovers evidence that the Northrup Mining Corporation is illegally dumping waste and ends up on the wrong side of some very powerful people. The more she digs, the bigger the threat against her life becomes.
Balancing work, angry phone calls, a difficult boss, a self-involved mother and a young son leaves little time for men. But, State Senator Reece Sheridan doesn’t scare off that easily. After an initial non-work meeting in a bar between them that slips from hello to embarrassing for Kara thanks to a few too many drinks, Reece is determined to have her despite the potential conflict of interest, her secrecy about her newest story and the role he unknowingly plays in it all.
All of these aspects come together with precision in Extreme Exposure. Clare layers internal and external conflict with a subtle hand. A fast-paced plot builds around strong characters and a fresh, sexy romance. There is very little extraneous material or information. Every paragraph moves the story forward and adds to the building tension, be it sexual or suspense.
Clare introduces the reader to a wide range of characters, including the lead players, family members, politicians and journalists. She handles all of these people with ease and without short-changing any. Kara and Reece are true and developed and real. Kara’s strength is obvious in her ability to raise a child alone and make a living in the difficult world of investigative journalism. At the same time, she is an interesting mix of securities and insecurities – unafraid of her sexuality and needs yet worried about protecting her son and losing her heart to Mr. Wrong a second time. Clare smartly draws Kara then lets her develop and grow, all while staying true to herself and without whining and false conflicts. Her moves, feelings and desires have a real-woman feel to them. It is easy to relate to Kara’s life and the priorities calling for her attention.
Kara’s growing attraction for Reece unfolds at a speed that is right and timely, and intersects perfectly with the anxiety in her life. Clare manages to combine highly sexual scenes with business and political scandal in perfect balance. This is not one of those books where you will wonder: "do they have time to be doing that?"
Reece is the perfect companion to Kara. He is smart and sexy. He’s a politician imperfect enough to get swindled but decent enough not to lose his humanity. From his description to his actions, it is easy to see why Kara would fall for him. He’s a hero worthy of a hard fall. Clare portrays Reece as an everyman rather than a superman and that distinction prevents the romance and his character from feeling too perfect.
While the scandal at the heart of Extreme Exposure is not unique, it serves the story. Near perfect pacing and a plot that ratchets up the heat on both the romance end and the suspense end move this story from beginning to end with relative ease. This is a page turner in the true sense of that phrase. Extreme Exposure is hard to put down and easy to finish in an afternoon. It is meaty without stumbling under the weight of unnecessary seriousness. It is very sexy without sacrificing plot.
Wendy: Pamela Clare’s Extreme Exposure is a deftly plotted romantic suspense that, unlike others of the sub-genre, does not rely on high-tech gadgetry and even higher body counts, but is firmly grounded with a plausible storyline. Journalist and single mother Kara McMillan’s life goes from undersexed and overworked to passion filled, even more overworked, and in danger when two very different men cross her path. The first, Senator Reece Sheridan, is sexy, ignites desires within Kara and says all the right things, but his career in politics makes Kara perhaps more suspect of his sincerity than the average man’s. The second, corporate whistleblower Henry Marsh, hands Kara evidence that Northrup Mining Cooperation is dumping toxic waste north of Denver, falsifying EPA reports, and paying off Colorado’s government to get away with their crimes. As soon as Kara digs into Northrup, intent on exposing their illegal activities, the warnings start, “You can’t handle this, and if you try you’re going to end up dead. Back off now, or face the heat.” Committed to her journalistic integrity, her duty to reveal the truth, and her desire to protect the innocent, Kara continues with her investigation only to find the wrongdoing more far reaching than she’d imagined, the men behind the corruption more interested in profits than public safety and that their threats on her life are not empty ones.
The romance and suspense aspect of the story weave together in a seamless balance, each mirroring the other with rising and falling action. Clare allows her hero and heroine a sexy, modern romance; one that does not spark under the high stakes of the suspense plot, but rather is nurtured in a mature and intelligent fashion. Kara and Reece’s attraction is immediate, and Clare allows their interest to simmer as they get to know one another—and in turn gives the reader reason to be invested in the characters—before they boil over. Their eventual coming together is erotic, but Clare missteps before the couple finds their footing. In the opening scene, an intoxicated Kara engages Reece in a conversation that is both playful and ribald.
Kara looked puzzled by this and stared at…his mouth. “Do you like to kiss women?”
“Yes. But not as much as I enjoy going down on them.”
Then later, when Reece picks Kara up for their first date, Kara’s son Conner, emerges with Kara’s purple jelly vibrator in hand. The scene serves a greater purpose than Kara’s embarrassment, but this together with the initial conversation and Reece’s frank sexual dialect — “You need a man, Kara. A man you can open up to. A man whose passion in life matches yours. A man who grabs your hair in big fistfuls and twists and pulls it when he’s fucking you. A man willing to walk the wire for you,” — all feel less than organic to the characters and the story.
As with other romantic suspenses featuring strong and sharp heroines, Extreme Exposure belongs to Kara. The story, the conflict, and the character growth are hers. Her fear of not being the best mother is relatable; her hesitancy to get involved with Reece is grounding; her investigation of Northrup compelling. Where she is the sun, Reece is the moon, shining only in Kara’s reflected glory. Reece’s role is reactionary; he wants to be in Kara’s life, wants to protect her and his part in the suspense plot with the Northrup investigation is significant only because of his involvement with Kara. While he is a golden god of a man—he loves the way his shirt smells after Kara washes it, he doggedly pursues a real relationship with her, and is a politician unwilling to play insider games—for too much of the story he is without a plot of his own.
Clare populates her story with secondary characters that are clearly drawn, colorful and flawed. Kara’s fellow reporters have enough leads on prison deaths and police shootings to assure them a life after this book. The handling of possible future stories is more subtle than usually found in the genre but clear enough to interest.
Extreme Exposure thrives under Clare’s skillful writing. What it lacks in intricacy, it more than makes up for with a well laid plot.
Wendy’s Response to HelenKay: Kara has a four year old son, Connor. He’s not quite the moppet often depicted in romance novels, but neither is he your average preschool aged child—at least I hope most four year olds don’t go around asking, “Are you having sex with my mommy?” Most importantly Connor is a tool that Clare uses as a source of conflict for Kara—be a good journalist or be a good mother—and he is a constant physical reminder of Kara’s men/abandonment issues. Does Connor effectively fulfill his purpose or does the kid-in-a-romance-novel problem supercede his reason to be?
HelenKay’s Response to Wendy: Connor succeeded in the sense that he did not intrude on, or otherwise overwhelm, the story. But, while he helped to establish a part of Kara’s personality and drive, in many ways the story could stand just fine without him. The good news is that, when the story heats up, Clare wisely pushes Connor out of the picture. This allows the romance and suspense to build and crescendo without worrying about the kid interference issue or the very unromantic idea of having the kid sit in immediate peril. With him off stage, the danger relates to him but never touches him. This "move to the side" issue and how well it plays suggests his existence may not be all that relevant to the plot or to Kara’s character.
HelenKay’s Final Thoughts: From beginning to end, this romantic suspense hits and exceeds every hallmark for this genre. The writing is solid, the characters interesting and believable and plot strong. Highly Recommended.
Wendy’s Final Thoughts: Extreme Exposure is an evenly paced page turner, filled with likable characters, and a mystery that is not intended to confound but remains enjoyable enough to watch unfold. Recommended.