To Serve and Protect

Going through airport security a couple of days ago, I informed the agent (nicely) that the Transportation Security Administration’s sign was ungrammatical. He rolled his eyes, but hey, I’m an English prof.  I can’t walk past a run-on sentence, any more than a cop can turn aside from a carjacking. If my job has turned me into a grammar hound, cops are vulnerable to more serious personality changes: they risk becoming deeply cynical loners, isolated from their communities by the very nature of their job. Add loner to cynic and you have got a recipe for romantic disaster. The five heroes in this column are exhausted, demoralized cops…who fall in love. Truly in love. Their job makes the novels’ happy endings doubly joyous; as Peter Faa realizes in Katie MacAlister’s Time Thief, “There were still dark things out there, battles yet to be won. And for the first time in his life, he wasn’t going to have to face them alone.”

Jill Shalvis’s It Had to Be You is a wildly charming novel about a lighthearted — but not light-fingered — young woman named Ali Winters, who is accused of stealing $50,000 from an ex-boyfriend. Only one person believes she’s innocent: the police detective who turns out to own her apartment. “It’s just one bad day,” Ali tells herself, standing in her panties in the kitchen after her rat fink bastard boyfriend dumps her by text, leaving her homeless. “Not from where I’m standing,” Luke says, eyeing her attire, or the lack thereof. Detective Lieutenant Luke Hanover is laconic, bruised, and honorable, the kind of cop that we all need in times of trouble. He’s fallen into the habit of observing life rather than living it, until Ali forces him to be as brave in his personal life as he is on the job.

Lori Foster’s hero in Bare It All is another police detective who finds himself accidentally sharing an apartment with a woman who brings all his protective instincts to the fore. Alice Appleton is a plucky survivor who risks danger to rescue women from terrible experiences like her own. It’s not until she meets Detective Reese Bareden — six and a half feet of undeniable strength and raw masculinity — that she begins to feel safe. Crucially, Ali is as strong as Reese, as devoted to justice, as caring and protective.  And she won’t accept detachment: against all his instincts, she makes Reese bare his soul. As Reese finally realizes, “Alice hadn’t crept into his life; she’d launched a full-force attack on his heart.”

The hero of Kate MacAlister’s Time Thief, Peter Faa, is mired in a case that no cop would envy: he’s a member of a supernatural police force looking for a murderer — and unfortunately, all the signs are pointing to his own family. If Peter is driven and (understandably) a bit grim, Kiya Mortenson is his opposite, a free spirit without a plan. She’s dog-sitting a quintet of pugs and living in a tent when Peter arrives at the campsite to confront his nearest, if not dearest. When it turns out that Kiya’s own powers are putting her in danger, Peter is rather horrified to find himself driven not just by protectiveness but by love. 

Alyssa Day’s hero in The Cursed is also combating criminals with supernatural powers; he’s a private investigator who has become the de facto sheriff of Bordertown, even though he keeps turning down the badge. Bordertown is a dimensional fold in Manhattan, where humans, fairies, and demons meet. Luke Oliver is driven to serve and protect in reaction to his mother’s evil deeds (she was Lucrezia Borgia, “an aristocratic thug,” in Luke’s phrase). Rio Jones, meanwhile, is a bike messenger, a quirky woman with more magic than she ought to have. She also has a crush on Luke, but since he turned her down flat, she’s been trying to forget him. That makes it particularly galling when she finds herself in danger and has to ask for help. If you enjoy an original, sexy urban fantasy, don’t miss this opening to a new series. I’m already dying to read the next one.

Julie Garwood’s Gentle Warrior is set in the Middle Ages, so the hero doesn’t have a badge to prove his right to hunt out the wicked and protect the innocent. But Lord Geoffrey Berkley is a baron who “protects all who pledge fealty, from the highest to the lowest.” When Lord Montwright is murdered and his castle overrun, Geoffrey defeats the villains and takes back the estate. And when Elizabeth Montwright returns to her family’s castle, he promptly marries her. Elizabeth’s next task is to convince him that he’s no longer alone in the world and that she will now sit beside him as he doles out justice. Gentle Warrioris Garwood’s very first romance, published in the ’80s: it’s a blithely feminist novel in which Geoffrey learns that warriors — and cops — come in both genders. But like all good love stories, the emotion at its core is timeless.

Eloisa James’s latest romance is With This Kiss; you can browse all of her books here.

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