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11 by Kylie Brant

For those of you who are not deep in the world of romance writing, the Daphne is an yearly romance suspense contest in honor of genre pioneer, Daphne du Maurier. Ms. Brant's novel 11 was a 2014 finalist in this contest. In other words, other top romance suspense writers decided that this book was one of the year's best.

Got your attention now?

The plot: Mia escaped from sexual sadistic The Collector, but when she returned, no one believed her story—or that fact that he’d come for her. So she disappears. But hiding in Vietnam on a fake passport isn’t enough.

Private security expert Jude Bishop helped her disappear, but now he’s looking for her again. He finds her in the middle of a chase that takes them back across continents, deeper into both their pasts. Together they search for the man who called Mia #11 in his collection, who won’t stop until his collection is complete.

After reading a few romance suspense books, the discerning reading writer may begin to tune into this trend: most romance suspense writers are either good at the romance or good at the suspense, but finding a writer who is good at developing both these pieces evenly is difficult. This external plot vs. romance problem crops up in all kinds of romance, but it’s the most prominent in romance suspense since the suspense genre has (arguably) the highest plot expectations.

Ms. Brant pulls Mia and Jude together and pushes them apart for suspense plot reasons, giving them time to piece together the clues leading them closer to The Collector while slowly exploring their mutual attraction. In this book, romance and suspense aren’t two separate plots; they’re intricately woven together. Though Mia makes some not-so-astute, go-at-it-alone decisions that can feel like plot devices rather than natural next steps, we’re right there with her, wanting to know what she will find next. Ms. Brant keeps us invested in the both the relationship between Mia and Jude and the puzzle they’re solving at the same time, within the same scene.

And that, reading writers, is this book's value for you.

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