SIZZLE – Julie Garwood
Ballantine Books
ISBN:  978-0-345-50078-6
February 2011
Contemporary Romantic Suspense

Los Angeles , California – Present Day

Lyra Prescott is a documentary movie student.  Between school, her latest project, and watching over her Grandmother Gigi in San Diego , she has a busy life.  Grandma Gigi is a smart woman who moved to California from her beloved Texas to be near Lyra and to keep her company, but she'd never tell Lyra that.  Lyra's parents have to be prevented from trying to declare Gigi incompetent to gain control of her money, and Lyra also has to keep peace between Gigi and Father Henry because she steals the holy water.

Lyra's latest film project shows the destruction of a beautiful neighborhood park that has become a dumping ground for everything imaginable.  Every several days, Lyra must get the film from her camera that she has hidden in the park to document what is happening.  But behind a nearby hill is a patch of beautiful grass and plants that someone is keeping in immaculate condition that piques her interest; who could be doing that?  One day while driving to the park, Lyra passes a yard sale, and when she pulls up she finds a woman giving everything away, including some precious first edition books.  She takes as many books as she can get into her SUV along with CD's and DVD's.  Little does she know that after she leaves the woman's husband comes home irate at what is going on and his wife shoots him in the front yard, goes in the house and kills herself.

Special Agent Samuel Wellington Kincaid is an FBI agent and getting way too much notoriety for saving a fellow agent.  Right now he is giving several training seminars around the country and hating every minute.  Everyone always asks him if he's a hero, and he hates all the attention.  When he's in Seattle , he gets a call from his friend Alec (the agent he saved) who needs his help.  His sister was attacked in her apartment and almost killed while some men were waiting for her roommate, Lyra, to come home.  Apparently Lyra has something they seriously want, and though Lyra scared them away with pepper spray and a lug wrench, the two girls need protection, and Lyra is Sam's responsibility until something else can be done. 

Lyra notices Sam is a real hunk and can't figure out why someone is after her.  But when Sam finds a bomb beneath Lyra's car, his protective instinct goes into overdrive, just like his lust.  Can Sam and Lyra figure out why so many people are trying to kill her, and what will Lyra do when she finds out Sam is anxious to leave before things turn too serious between them? (Sex isn't that serious, is it?)

Milo Smith fancies himself James Bond and a “hit man.”  After working at a collection agency for Mr. Merriam, he was chosen for some “specialized” overtime work.  So far Milo has been successful, and Mr. Merriam is impressed with his work, but, well, Milo actually hasn't killed anyone.  His next assignment for Mr. Merriam brings him in contact with Lyra at the yard sale, and he immediately falls in love; she is way more beautiful than any Bond girl ever was.  Soon Milo must decide between keeping Mr. Merriam happy and protecting his Bond girl.

Julie Garwood has assembled a cast of characters that is the secret of this great story.  Inside the pages of SIZZLE, Lyra draws us into her world where her sense of duty to her grandmother and very strong goals make her try her best to keep from falling in love with Sam.  Sam is an FBI agent used to protecting and saving others.  The death of his wife leaves him afraid of a commitment, but Lyra quickly tests his decision to remain alone.  Lyra and Sam's interaction is very true to life, and they are likeable people confronting a dangerous situation.

Secondary characters in SIZZLE are what make it burn so brightly.  Grandma Gigi is a delight and has a heart of pure gold.  Milo Smith could be the most incompetent crook/hit man you've ever met, but is willing to sacrifice anything to keep his angel Lyra safe.  Milo 's boss, Mr. Merriam, has no end to the people he needs “taken care of” and is behind Milo 's rise to mediocrity in the hit man department.  Adding more interest is Lyra's documentary film professor Mahler, an egomaniac if there ever was one, but there's more behind his bullying of his students than you might think.  Lyra's parents are after her grandmother's money and cause Lyra no end of worrying about what scheme they will come up with next.  A fine ensemble of characters like these makes this a novel well worth enjoying slowly.

SIZZLE will entice you, tempt you, and hold your interest as the multi-faceted tale reveals itself to you.  I can guarantee you a fine night of reading and getting to know some awesome people you wish you could meet.  Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to SIZZLE this month!

Carolyn Crisher