Connor Bannon, a control freak with major anger management issues, connects with Erin O’Dea, self-professed arsonist with extreme claustrophobia. Throw in a supporting cast of mostly ex-cons forced to work as a team under the command of a demanding Chicago PD captain or risk long-term incarceration, and the stage is set for a page-turning thriller/steamy manual on the how-to of no-hands sex.
Connor and Erin dominate the story of Tessa Bailey’s Up in Smoke. Their demons and road to recovery in the heat of mutual passion, jealousy, and eventual trust consume most of the romance novel’s 287 pages. The mission that brought them together with seasoned police officer Sera and her over-protective former mob boss husband, Bowen, Polly the convicted computer hacker, and con-artist Austin serves mainly as a means to help Erin slay her demons. Erin’s evil stepfather’s relentless and destructive pursuit of her and the trust fund he seeks to control also detracts from the team assignment to take down a corrupt politician.
In fairness, this is the first novel I’ve read by Tessa Bailey, whose storytelling ability I envy as a romance writer. The author sets up Crossing the Line #3 in the final pages of Up in Smoke with back story foreshadowing Austin’s angst as a parent of a daughter he apparently does not know. I’m intrigued to discover more about how Sera and Bowen came to be, likely revealed in Book #1.
That’s the very definition of trilogy writing success. I’m hooked and I want more.
Teresa LaBella published her first contemporary romance novel, Reservations, in December 2013 and Heartland in February 2015. Belonging, the final novel in the New Life in Love trilogy, will be ready for readers in 2016. A freelance writer and consultant, Teresa serves on the Board of Directors of the Midwest Writing Center. The Davenport native resides in her hometown with her husband John and three adopted Husky kids.