In the Line of Duty
by Lisa Arnoux-Brown
Westwood Books Publishing LLC

"She was in love and that scared her. Giving her heart to a man who might break it or leave her was not what she was looking for."

Emma Grant is a smart, hard-working English professor with “cafe-au-lait skin and soft brown eyes.” In steps a mysterious “Jamaican man,” catching Emma off guard as she struggles to maintain professionalism with the attractive student. A divorced woman, she is fettered by her past, specifically to her ex-husband, Matt, with whom she shares the custody of their seven-year-old daughter, Sam. Matt is “like a dog with a bone” and still harbors feelings for Emma. During nights and weekends, Emma leaves behind her campus life, devoting her attention fully to Sam. But her campus life is suddenly complicated by the witness of illegal drug activity and detective Earl Solano’s (“Jamaican man”) revelation that he is working undercover and investigating a drug ring at Queen’s College.

This brings us to the heart of Arnoux-Brown’s romantic thriller, where Emma and Earl’s reluctant relationship deepens amidst this dangerous investigation. Earl vows to protect Emma at all costs while professing his affection toward her. Emma does not altogether deny her mutual attraction, charmed by the “mesmerizing gaze” of the “sexy” and “solicitous” man. But for various reasons, Emma raises cautious barriers to protect herself from heartache with a man whose “career scares the hell out of” her. She soon finds herself navigating between the attentiveness of two men, tension building between a frustrated Earl and a jealous Matt, whose concerns for their daughter heighten in the wake of Emma and Earl’s relationship. Emma equally fears for Sam’s safety, while pondering the complexities of her escalating involvement with Earl and how to dissolve her past with Matt. Then Earl’s investigation turns grim when Emma is kidnapped, and demands are made for her safe return.

From the start, Arnoux-Brown sets up the reader with the familiar scene of suspense novels: a stranger, a crime, and a woman in danger. She spends considerably more time, however, exploring the dynamic between Emma and Earl, their unfolding romance becoming the main thread of the novel. Crime and the police investigation take second place in the background of this fast, easy read. Still, there is a lot that happens in this novel. Through Arnoux-Brown’s narrative, she observes themes of gender and danger, relationships, and the contrasts between men and women. She touches a bit more subtly on issues of race and the intersection of drugs and crime with America’s educational institutions. All of this is explored largely through Emma, a young, minority woman who is equally vulnerable and strong at a crossroads in her life, caught between the past and future. She also explores the juxtapositions of Earl (and the parallel with Matt) who cares deeply for Emma, both as a man and as a detective. With these two protagonists, we are presented with honest and flawed characters who need each other more than they each realize and whom the reader can root for.

While the novel does lean more heavily toward romance than thriller, Arnoux-Brown still finds a balance between the two, sure to include the standard elements of both: a police procedural plot and characters set in the New York City landscape for its thriller story and the familiar tensions of a complicated love situation for its romance story. There is plenty of action that builds exponentially to the final climax as well as an appealing tale of love that is never gratuitous. It is clear when reading how much Arnoux-Brown enjoys the world she creates, filled with intelligent characters in sophisticated settings. The reader is left satisfied with a tidy, optimistic ending. Fans of this novel will undoubtedly look forward to more from this author.

Return to USR Home