Author: M.S. Spencer
Publisher: Secret Cravings Publishing
Buy Link: Buy Artful Dodging Here!
Rating: You Need To/Gotta Read
Reviewed By: Erin O’Quinn
Waiting out the rain, Milo Everhart takes stock of her widowhood and the handsome man standing in the door to the bar. Little does she know she will meet that man again and again under both passionate and terrifying circumstances.
Tristram Brody waits for his date, too conscious of the beautiful woman sitting by the door. Little does he know that she will hate him for trying to destroy her beloved art center, and even suspect him of murder. Nor that she will be drawn inevitably into his arms.
Little does either of them suspect they will be embroiled in not one, but two murders, in which the fate of the Torpedo Factory, an art center housed in an old munitions factory on the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria, will be decided.
M.S. Spencer has written a good murder-suspense romance, Artful Dodging, driven not just by multiple corpses and bewildering clues, but by sparkling wit and earthy, believable love scenes.
Milo is an artist, a kind of craftsperson who, with scores of other creative souls, uses the Torpedo Factory building as an artists’ enclave. Tristram Brodie is a retired marine and a successful lawyer representing a man who wants to subsume the art center under the oh-so-crass wing of a big-box store.
These two beautiful people have every reason to be attracted to each other–and to be repelled from each other too. First, Milo is a widow, her marine husband only a year in his grave; and Tristram, too, has lost his own wife in an airplane accident. Second, Tristram represents the tycoon trying to take over her beloved art center. She resents his obvious interest in subsuming the Torpedo Factory, and he thinks she is shallow for not seeing the obvious advantages to such a business arrangement. So sparks fly.
Yes, sparks fly, in between even more electric kisses and thrumming, exciting lovemaking, I found their chemistry to be fresh and believable.
Wondering whether the stranger she sees in the bar might be waiting for a woman, Milo thinks, “He probably always has a date, even during Lent.” And later she says of the striking Tristram, “Apparently being handsome had become a habit.”
After they have made love a few times, Milo admits that she is wholly attracted to this man, even though she feels guilty about betraying the memory of her deceased husband. “I want him grinding his hips into mine and whispering dirty words in my ear. I want to feel the tension, the rising pressure, the feel of that hard rod inside me, the rhythm of mating, the sweet release. I want to see that beatific smile on his face when I’ve given him the best ride of his life.”
Lest we forget, the story is also a murder mystery. Milo finds not just one body, but two. The mystery becomes more and more close to home, involving the caretaker of the art building and other people close to her and her friends. The “artful dodging” refers not just to the off-and-on relationship of the main characters but also to the movements of the men and women around them, any one of whom may be the killer. At the end, when Milo comes face to face with the killer, the dodging is over and she must face the stark reality of murder.
But it is the romance between the protagonists that I will remember with a bit of a pleasurable twinge and a smile. The characters are very well imagined and their interpersonal tensions, required by the very genre, are very well handled.
I give this book a 4.5 out of 5. Although the mystery itself is a bit labored and even a tad dull, the romance is delicious and memorable, and the writer shows that she is nimble at her craft.