cover image Better Off Dead

Better Off Dead

Meryl Sawyer. Harlequin Books, $6.99 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-373-77024-3

Too many coincidences mar Sawyer's newest romantic suspense novel (after Lady Killer). Samantha Robbins, the former assistant to the CFO at the military supply company PowerTec, has gone into the federal witness protection program after exposing business irregularities at her company. But PowerTec is the least of her worries; a nasty operative for Obelisk, a shadowy organization that steals military technology, has sent a hired gun after her, believing she discovered something dangerous that could destroy Obelisk. When the Feds relocate Samantha from Sante Fe to Hawaii as ""Devon,"" she meets Chad, a handsome but secretive Delta Force officer doing underwater forensics as well as weapons testing (off the record) for his old Defense Department boss. His suspicious nature and top-secret work with a next-generation infrared device, along with her evasiveness and own fears, play well off of each other. Is she after the device, and if not, what is she hiding? Is he after her? If he isn't, will he be killed by association? The protagonists are believably attracted to each other despite their fears, but the story begins to crumble around them as disjointed elements start coalescing in increasingly unbelievable ways. Worst of all, Devon's moment of truth, when she finally reveals all to Chad, is remarkably anticlimactic. In the end, this book offers readers plenty of buildup, but very little payoff.