Linda Howard






Ballantine Books, July 2004
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

Lily Mansfield, a contract agent for the CIA, kills an unsanctioned target for personal reasons. When her closest friends, former CIA agents, are killed by a French businessman, Lily seeks revenge. The grief over her friends' deaths, and the stress of the job, have driven her to dangerous thinking and a fatalistic outlook. She knows her actions will cause the CIA to send someone after her, but she believes it's a price she must pay--the cost for revenge. Until the CIA sends someone to stop her, Lily continues to investigate her friends' deaths. She wants to discover what her friends knew that made it necessary to kill them.

CIA agent Luke Swain is assigned to go to Paris and either apprehend Lily Mansfield or take her out. He suspects she is reacting to the trauma of her high risk job which has caused her to cross over the line. Luke hopes to get close to Lily and find a way to help her. When he gains her confidence and their relationship becomes intimate, he discovers she may be on the track to uncovering a plot with the potential to cause a widespread, international pandemic. But when Luke gets a tip about a mole in the CIA and his controller, Frank Vinay, is critically injured in an accident, he finds he is on his own on this assignment.

Luke is falling in love with a very dangerous woman who is caught up in a lethal situation. His instinct tells him Lily is onto something important, but if she discovers his true identity and mission, it could cause a dangerous face-off between them.

Linda Howard has written a fascinating and believable spy tale. KISS ME WHILE I SLEEP is filled with carefully researched details of deadly viruses that are all too real. But this story is more than just an exciting suspense novel, it's a love story wrapped around a spy thriller. Howard serves up a heady mix of suspense and romance with a sensual relationship that is graphically depicted. Popular for her steamy love scenes, in this novel the suspense plot is equally as significant as the love story.

Linda Howard's KISS ME WHILE I SLEEP is an excellent example of a romance writer who seeks to appeal to a larger audience by including a more mainstream type story side by side with romance. Romance readers will enjoy the love story, but mainstream suspense readers may find the switch to intensely written love scenes jarring. The marriage of romance and suspense in this novel wasn't seamless. I love Howard's books, but even I found the combination startling at times.

The main character, Lily Mansfield, is a new type of assassin--a smart, sensitive woman with lethal capabilities. It's an interesting twist, but the most appealing character to me was Luke Swain. He's got a killer sense of humor, likes fast cars and knows how to handle dangerous women. This character brings the comic relief needed to a book that could easily have become bogged down in a dark story. My only complaint is that it ended too abruptly without resolving some key questions in their relationship. I would have liked an epilogue that brought Luke and Lily face to face again.

Two characters from Howard's previous novels make a brief appearance, Frank Vinay and John Medina. KISS ME WHILE I SLEEP is part of a series of romantic suspense novels by Howard which includes, ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN (2000) and KILL AND TELL (2002).

August 2004


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