cover image Fool Me Once

Fool Me Once

Catherine Bybee. Montlake Romance, $12.95 trade paper (373p) ISBN 978-1-61218-507-1

Bybee (Making It Right) hampers suspense and sensuality with a meandering plot in this clumsy contemporary. Lori Cumberland, a cynical divorced divorce attorney living in Los Angeles, benefits financially from Alliance, a company formed by her friend Sam that is devoted to facilitating sham marriages. Lori’s on a European cruise for divorcés with several clients when she meets Reed Barlow, a former cop turned dashing and driven private investigator. Reed is on the cruise because he’s been hired to spy on a former Alliance match. He soon realizes he’s not the only spy on board, and wonders who else is hunting and why. The plot is uneven, jumping from a drunken divorce party in Los Angeles to a suicide in the Hamptons to a cruise to Italy. The story gets really convoluted around cruise time and remains so until the end of the tale. Improbable red herrings distract, as does the villain’s behavior. Characters include an almost cartoonishly villainous Russian whose daughter-in-law is a client of Lori’s, overblown shipboard lotharios, and believable besties who have Lori’s back. Despite the confusion, Bybee still delivers a story that her die-hard readers will enjoy. Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret Literary. (Sept.)