Catch Me If You Can by Nina Bruhns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was Nina Bruhns's first release and, wow, what a way to start her career! This was actually my second read by her - my first was Top-Secret Bride, which I really liked and prompted me to track her backlist - and it may be too soon to say it, but I think I've become a fan.
Katherine "Kit" Colfax is an insurance investigator whose job is on the line because her company is in the process of downsizing its personnel and only the most "lucrative" employees will be kept in the end. Kit has an almost perfect performance history when it comes to solving her cases, but she has some expensive ways of doing it and her boss is being pressured to let her go because of that. So he gives her one last case to redeem herself: either she brings down Remi Beaulieux, a jewel thief who's been giving hell to the insurance company by heisting its clients' jewels, or she's out of the job she loves by the end of the month. Kit's plan to catch Remi is simple: join a very private and friendly poker game with him in Las Vegas, lose her sapphire necklace to him in order to lure him to steal more where that came from, then — bam! — catch him in the act. Naturally, not everything goes according to her plans...
Simon "Beau" Beaulieux, who's Remi's cousin and shares a fair resemblance to him - not good enough to fool anyone who's close to them, but enough to fool passing acquaintances -, is also trying to track down his black sheep cousin in order to "persuade" him to return the family jewels - no pun intended - he's stolen from their grandmère. Beau's the Chief of Police in his hometown of Verdigris, LA, but he's also the head of the Beaulieux family and will do anything to protect his family - which, at the moment, means hiding the theft from his family and trying to get them back unnoticed. So he sets his own plan to catch Remi: set up a backroom game using his cousin's name in his usual Vegas haunt, and rattle him out of hiding. But as we all know, even the best plans go awry sometimes...
As the story opens, Kit and Beau are facing each other over the poker table - Kit mistakenly thinking that Beau is Remi - and they're down to the final bet. Short of chips, Kit ends up betting her sapphire necklace - which is okay, since that's actually part of her plan - and the expensive Karl Lagerfeld dress she's wearing - uh-oh, that's not part of the plan! Obviously, she loses and, in a scene that had me gigling, leaves the game backroom and crosses the hotel lobby wearing nothing but her high heels and her underwear. Only in Vegas! (To be fair, Beau isn't a sleazy bastard and offers to give the dress back to Kit, but she refuses. After all, a bet is a bet and she lost it.)
Immediately after leaving Beau, Kit discovers his true identity and now she's in a bind: she lost the necklace - and the dress - to the wrong man, and she needs them back in order to salvage any chance of keeping her job at the end of the month. And what's up with Beau pretending to be Remi? Is he a dirty cop in cahoots with his cousin? On his side, Beau's also intrigued by Kit: he knows she's after Remi, but he doesn't know why. Is she a con artist set on forming an alliance with his disreputable cousin?
As the story progresses, Kit follows Beau around - first to San Diego, then to his home in Verdigris -, both of them looking for Remi. Kit wants to bring Remi down, but Beau isn't sure his cousin's really guilty of all the thefts she claims he's done. Beau's pretty sure Remi's guilty of stealing their grandmère's jewels, but this is one theft no one but him is aware of and he's going to keep it this way. Things get more complicated as the attraction between Kit and Beau grows stronger and they start falling in love with each other. He soon realizes that he wants more than a temporary affair with her, but she's afraid of getting seriously involved with him due to a bad experience in her past. But how can she resist him? Well, she can't. ;)
I really loved this book. It was one of the sexiest books I've ever read, the love scenes were sigh-worthy and hot, and the sparks between Kit and Beau could put any Fourth of July fireworks to shame. Oh, and the plot was good too! I didn't know if Remi was innocent or guilty till the end. I had my hopes, but I didn't know how Ms. Bruhns would make it "right" for everyone. If Remi was innocent, Kit would have wasted time and money on a fruitless chase and would lose her job; if he was guilty, she would keep her job but Beau would never forgive her for being the one who got his cousin arrested. What a dilemma!
As for the H/h, Beau and Kit were very well-developed, and I fell instantly in love with them. Beau was charming, funny, sexy, and protective but not overbearing. He turned me into a puddle of goo several times while I was reading this book. *sighs* The scene where he bet Kit that he could kiss her without touching her... Wow, the man definitely knew his moves! Kit started out very well too, but then she went into her I'm-afraid-Beau-will-try-to-manipulate-and-hurt-me-so-I'm-going-to-stay-away-from-him mindframe and I got a little annoyed with her. I mean, he did manipulate her a bit but it was for her own protection and he would never, ever do anything to hurt her. Anyway, she did come to her senses in the end, so this minor "annoyance" wasn't enough to ruin the book for me.
Overall, this was one of the best SIM novels I've read, and I'm definitely going to keep tracking Ms. Bruhns's backlist.
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