Friday, September 24, 2010

Unlawful Contact (I-Team #3) by Pamela Clare

     While writing this review, I kept asking myself, how does Pamela Clare do it? How does she write book after amazing book, each one getting better than the one before? When I was sure she couldn’t possibly top Extreme Exposure, I read Hard Evidence and was blown away. Then, when I’m certain there’s no way she can beat Hard Evidence, I read Unlawful Contact and found myself literally sitting on the edge of my seat, unable to put it down, and staying up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it – yet not wanting it to end.
     In one of the sweetest, sexiest prologues of any book I’ve ever read, Sophie Alton and Hunt spent one unforgettable night together, 12 years before this story begins, knowing it would probably be the last time they’d ever see each other. Hunt left the following morning to begin his stint in the Army and as the years wore on, Sophie went on to become an investigative reporter, ultimately ending up at the Denver Independent newspaper as a member of their elite I-Team. Even though they didn’t see each other again, didn’t stay in touch, they never forgot that one night they’d spent together, a night that was so much more than just physical attraction. What they had shared was true passion, an emotional connection between two lonely people that would never be forgotten.
     As the book blurb tells us, our heroine, Sophie is investigating the disappearance of a young mother, Megan, who was recently paroled, and at a time when her life was finally taking a turn for the better, she inexplicably takes off with her daughter, Emily, and is running from the law. In her attempts to find Megan, Sophie is led to Marc Hunter, Megan’s brother, who is serving a life sentence for murdering a fellow DEA agent. But, as is often the case, things are not always as they appear and what once appeared to be a black and white, cut and dry conviction sentencing Marc Hunter to prison, now takes on shades of gray as we get a glimpse into a justice system tainted by a few corrupt and power hungry men. The story takes us on an exciting journey with Marc and Sophie who are chasing and being chased by the bad guys while trying to find out why Megan and Emily are on the run and reach them before it’s too late. There is plenty enough action, adventure, mystery, romance and sexual heat to keep this story moving quickly, yet easy to follow. I never lost interest and Unlawful Contact is yet another book by this author to be added to my “keepers” shelf.
     I usually devote a good amount of time to character traits and development in my reviews, but I’m not going to do that this time, other than to say that once again these are not just names on the page rather, they are richly detailed and fully fleshed out people who we’d truly love to have as friends, neighbors, family members and lovers. Now, that said, Marc, I adore you and I want to have your babies. Yes, I had wanted to have Julian’s babies, too… but this time I mean it. You’re perfect for me. Tortured, hot, scarred, sexy, vulnerable, honorable, sexy – in short, you’re the perfect male, but you need a woman’s touch, my touch, so ditch that Sophie chick and come home with me. *sigh*
     OK, where was I…? Oh, yes! So, I had asked the question, How does she do it? Well, the answer is that not only is Ms. Clare a bestselling author, she’s an investigative journalist and the “fictional” stories we read about in her books, aren’t quite as fictional as we might think. They are based on actual stories she broke or helped work on over the years at her “day” job working at the newspaper. This is where the realism and the attention to details that make her stories stand out come from—firsthand experience. And as I read these novels, I can tell that not only the characters, but their circumstances really matter to her. They don’t just start and end between the covers of the book. Here’s what I mean—
     Ms. Clare, during her years as an investigative reporter, actually spent some time in a women’s jail to get a feel for what it was like behind bars. She became aware of the practice of shackling pregnant inmates to their beds during labor and childbirth and made it her personal mission to have a law passed which would put a halt to this practice. She spent three years trying to find a lawmaker who would take up the issue but no one seemed interested. In fact, some weren’t even aware this was being done. In January of 2010, she went to the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility to interview inmates who were either pregnant or who had recently given birth and the following month wrote up an article with new information and updated statistics.
     Armed with the article and all the supporting data, she had a meeting with the Senate President who agreed to grant “late-bill” status to any bill dealing with this issue. Pamela then found a lawmaker who was willing to carry the bill. However, this lawmaker knew nothing about the issue, so she asked Ms. Clare to write the law, which she did, followed by weeks of hearings in the House and Senate in which she testified three times, with the bill finally passing in June, 2010  with only a single “no” vote.
     Thanks to her efforts, pregnant women in Denver Correctional Facilities have been allowed a small bit of dignity in a very undignified existence. Some of the things which are covered in this bill are:
---No one in the state -- city police, county sheriffs, state prison authorities -- can shackle a pregnant inmate in labor or during birth.
---The new law also regulates how a pregnant inmate can be shackled throughout her pregnancy.
---And it makes sure she can have someone with her during her strip-search when she returns to prison (guards were hurting women).

     My purpose in sharing this information is to point out how seriously Ms. Clare takes her job as a journalist and to show how much work and firsthand experience goes into her novels. Each book of this series is just as detailed and accurate, her information having come from hours upon hours of research and hands on investigation, which give a unique perspective and authenticity to her stories we don’t often find in fictional, romantic suspense novels.. They are not just words on a page meant to sell books, she truly believes in what she writes about and that comes through in her stories. She consistently gives us characters to care about, laugh with, cry for and look forward to revisiting time and time again.
     If you’re a fan of romantic suspense and haven’t yet tried Pamela Clare’s I-Team novels, I’d really encourage you to do so, and just as I did, you might just find you have a new favorite author to the genre.

The I-Team reading order, so far:

1. Extreme Exposure
1.5 Heaven Can't Wait - a novella found in the out of print anthology Catch of the Day and on ebook
2. Hard Evidence
3. Unlawful Contact
4. Naked Edge
5. Breaking Point
5.5. Skin Deep
5.9. First Strike
6. Striking Distance
6.5. Soul Deep
7. Seduction Game
7.5 Dead by Midnight

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