♥ Vonda M. Reid ♥'s Reviews > Crazy Sweet

Crazy Sweet by Tara Janzen
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May 30, 12

bookshelves: romantic-suspense
Read from July 15 to 16, 2010 — I own a copy, read count: 1

Overall Rating: 5 // Action: 5 / Emotion: 5.5 / Romance: 4.5 / Sensuous: 4 / Suspense: 5 // Laughter: 20 / Tears: 5

Avidly reading "The Steele Street Series," one book right after the other. Each book has been great. But Book Six, Crazy Sweet, was awesome. Once I started reading, I did not want to put it down (for any reason: to feed the dog, to sleep, etc.) This book deserved the big 5.0 rating. It so engaged my emotions that I had to give the emotional aspect of the book a 5.5 out of 5.0.

Crazy Sweet was a book of great contrasts. Dark versus Light. Good guy versus Bad guy. Humor versus Seriousness. Sweet versus Cold and Hard.

Giving this book a 5.0 rating was difficult because I hated what Gillian Pentycote had become. I hated her treatment of the love of her life. But that's what made me realize it deserved a high rating. Janzen created such a flawed personality with such depth that she was able to draw strong emotions from the reader -- the whole idea behind writing a book -- to engage the reader -- to draw her in. Janzen succeeded with flying colors!

The extent of the change in the hero and heroine's characters was so drastic. Travis James was introduced in Book One, Crazy Hot, as the laid-back, drop-dead gorgeous EMT with Boulder County Search and Rescue, who posed naked for aspiring artist Nikki McKinney. In Book Two, Crazy Cool, Travis's protective instincts are exposed when he decides to walk Skeeter Bang home from the Gallery, even though she was the street-rat. His eyes were opened to the un-safeness of the world when a street gang harassed them. In Book Four, Crazy Kisses, the really nice, non-confrontational conflict resolution-believing Travis took up arms against the men holding Kid and Nikki at gun point. By Book Five, Crazy Love, Travis has become the New Guy for the Special Defense Force. But through all the changes of Travis from a laid-back, take-things-as-they-come guy to a lethal, gun-wielding, take-the-bad-guys-out guy, there was that knowledge that Travis was still a sweet, caring, loving, loyal man underneath all that hardness.

Not so with Gillian "Red Dog" Pentycote. When Gillian was introduced in Crazy Love, she was clueless. She was a sweet thing who was falling apart at the seams. Her character charmed me as I watched her walk towards Travis (the Angel) with her shirt mis-buttoned; her skirt not quite zipped up; her glasses taped together; her shoelace coming untied, etc. There was no gradual change in Gillian's personality. She was wrongfully kidnapped and the evil warlord had her injected with an experimental truth serum, XT7. XT7 totally scrambled Gillian's brains and body functions. Wham! Sweet, messy Gillian Pentycote was no more! The amnesiac, cold, emotionless, can shoot better, run faster, think quicker Red Dog took her place.

Whenever Red Dog started having XT7 after-effect spasms, Travis utilized his famed sexual imprinting skills to relieve the tense muscles and then he made love to Gillian. But even the spicy, hot sexual scenes could not remove that hint of darkness surrounding Red Dog.

Red Dog remembered only four things from her past life. Two held importance for her. One was her Angel, Travis. The other was the man who caused her life change, ex-CIA Agent, Tony Royce. For two years, Hawkins, Kid, Creed and Travis trained Red Dog for her new life as a contract mercenary, a hired assassin. She took to it like a duck to water. For two years, Red Dog was vengefully searching for Royce. For two years, her Angel stood by her through thick and thin. And it was mostly thick.

Even though Red Dog admitted that she loved Travis, he did all the giving in the relationship, Travis was every woman's dream come true. He gave. He supported. He loved. He watched her back. While watching Travis bestow all these precious gifts on Red Dog, one kept hoping for even a teeny-tiny glimpse of Gillian. Not one speck of the sweetness remained! There just seemed to be a constant feeling of darkness as Red Dog planned her betrayal of Angel.

Dylan, Skeeter and Hawkins made appearances in Crazy Sweet because Red Dog not only betrayed Travis, she also put the entire Steele Street operation in jeopardy. Red Dog's single-minded pursuit of Tony Royce caused her to make the decision to cross the line that stood between the good guy and bad guy. The SDF killed only by orders from above, usually General Grant. Red Dog further handicapped the Steele Street boys' by making them have to choose to eliminate her if she went totally rogue, if she did cross that line and killed in cold blood.

The suspense was intense. Would Royce come for Red Dog? Who would win the fight between Royce and Red Dog? Would Red Dog cross the line? Would the Steele Street boys have to kill a friend? Would Gillian ever come back? Would Travis be able to get past Red Dog's betrayal? (It is their book and is supposed to end in happily-ever-after, but how much should one man take from the woman he loved?)

Even through there was a strong connection between Travis and Gillian, it was still difficult to forgive Red Dog for her treatment of Angel. There was hope for their happily-ever-after though. Janzen lead the reader to believe that a bit of the sweet Gillian was going to appear in the life of the cold Red Dog.

Thankfully, Janzen lifted the reader from the darkness surrounding Red Dog and Travis by shining a bright, happy light on the other romance in the book. The romance between C. Smith Rydell (the next new SDF guy) and Honoria "Honey" York-Lytton. Even though Travis and Gillian took top billing in Crazy Sweet, Smith and Honey stole the show.

C. Smith Rydell was fascinating back when he was introduced saving Kid Chaos in 'superman-style' in Book Four, Crazy Kisses. Kid was sure that Smith was still too young to be in the DEA and he was always wearing that s--t-eating grin. Even though he looked too young, happy and carefree, Smith proved that he was capable of getting the tough jobs done.

One really engaging thing that Smith did was create lists in his mind. These lists injected priceless bits of humor into even the most dire of situations. For instance in Book Four, Crazy Kisses {page 111}:
"Spending the next nine hours with a crying woman was real close to the top of his "Avoid At All Costs" list, right under untimely death and a desk job."
Smith created several more lists as he was forced to deal with the rich, high maintenance, girly-girl, Honey York as they hunkered down in the Hotel Palacio in Sun Luis, El Salvador. Smith could not believe his eyes when the obviously lost, blond (wearing a white with red polka dots halter-top dress) showed up on the wrong side of town. When Royce's goons started coming after the 'cupcake', Smith was forced to hide her in his room. Because rebels started bombing the town, Smith and Honey spent many long hours entertaining readers with their antics and dialogue.

Janzen did a great job of relieving the path into darkness by interweaving Angel and Red Dog's story with Smith and Honey's budding romance. Smith's humor and lightness was so laugh-inducing. Smith was such a man's man and Honey was so über feminine. Those personalities played well against each other. When they eventually made love, the scene was spicy and there was a sweet connection between them even though they were definitely light-years apart on the social stratosphere. Cannot wait to read their book, 'On The Loose', the seventh book of the series.

Crazy Sweet is a must-read for anyone who enjoys an emotional, action-packed, edge-of-your-seat suspense. It is even a must re-read for anyone who wants to laugh and cry the day away.

Although Crazy Sweet had enough background details about each of the characters to make it a good stand-alone read, I feel that the book is much more vivid because I had already been introduced to the protagonists. There are just so many details about Travis in the previous books of the series that explain why he was the perfect hero for Red Dog's fractured character. Would strongly suggest that the series be read in order.

[note: Am curious about one thing. Have read on the discussion boards about how readers opine that cheating, done-her-wrong heros need to spend more time on their knees groveling before the heroine forgives him and takes him back. Wonder if those same women feel that Travis should have made Red Dog spend time on her knees groveling before him? {Red Dog did not do any groveling. Travis just forgave!}]

--This review written for Wolf Bear Does Books.
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