Jessica Hall





Signet, Feb 2003
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Romantic Suspense

Valence St. Charles, like every other museum curator, wants to get her hands on the sword collection of Tíang Jian-Shan. Valence is a little more determined than most, and she has the well-honed street smarts to get past Mr. Tíangís formidable security. Quite by accident, she arrives just in time to foil an assassin and incur the insistent gratitude of the rich, reclusive collector.

The reason for all the security, and the assassination attempt, is Jian-Shanís own father, head of the most powerful tong in the Eastern world. Tíang Po does not take rejection well. To him, the flight of his heir from the brutal life for which he has been trained demands vengeance. Jianís public disclosure of his sword collection is a calculated move in a campaign to free himself once and for all from his father, and Valence has fallen into the middle of this threatening game. She might have had the skill to escape from the dangerously attractive Jian, but she falls in love with his baby daughter Lily. Valís main problem is Lilyís mother. Karenís death was so traumatic for Jian that it is doubtful he will ever be able to love Val, whose dramatic personality and colorful beauty satisfy all his senses, physical and artistic.

The buoyant tone of THE DEEPEST EDGE means you will be able to read it settled back comfortably in your favorite chair, not crouching on the edge of your seat. Only one nasty character, Jianís business manager Madelaine Pierport, has the ability to give us any painful suspense. At one point it looks like she is about to plunge us over the edge into clichť, but the author rescues us. This leaves us free to enjoy the vivid characters as they work out their feuds and culture clashes.

The exotic color of THE DEEPEST EDGE strikes us from the first page. Set in Paris and its environs, and then in New Orleans, it paints excitingly atmospheric pictures of both. Jian and Val and author Jessica Hall all have intense artistic perception, and do they indulge it! I donít have any particular feel for flower gardens, but the description of a garden near one of their hiding places swept me off my feet.

The owner of this delightful garden is the most memorable element of the whole book: Raven, ex-CIA agent and reigning model, dangerous as a hunting cat. She is a close friend of Jian and a vengeful enemy of her ex-lover General Kalen, both attitudes determined by an event years ago which alienated her from everyone she had trusted. Ravenís problems are due to be addressed in Jessica Hallís next book, but in the meantime she is ready to give Jian and Val all the help she can.

THE DEEPEST EDGE deserves better than this eminently forgettable title, which I had trouble remembering even as I was reading the book. Because the target of so much interest is a collection of museum quality swords, and because of the swordís-edge Jian walks in his attempts to keep events under his control, I suggest the title THE FINEST EDGE instead. Just in case the publishers decide to rename it, of course. This book is the start of a trilogy, the next title being THE STEEL CARESS, featuring Raven and General Kalen.

Feb 2003 Review Originally Published on WOR


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