“Naked in Death” is my first J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts book, but I’ve been really digging futuristic crime and mystery books that feature actual cops and detectives, rather than amateur sleuths, that I just had to read this! Eve Dallas is a gritty detective who does not stop until she gets justice for her victims. In this case, professional sex workers who are brutally murdered by a client, their last moments recorded and sent to the police. It’s an old-fashioned crime on the backdrop of a futuristic world with flying cars, and where real coffee is a luxury. But for all the developments that this city has, the biggest issue they face is that their advances allow for all DNA to be purged easily. So a violent crime that could have been solved quickly, turns into a mystery and a race to solve before more women end up dead. But the crime itself tends to become secondary to the romance that quickly—and I mean QUICKLY—unfolds between Eve and a potential suspect… Which, and this is probably the first time I’ll say this, would have made this book better if the lead was an amateur sleuth instead of a detective.
This is one of those books that I don’t think really knew what it wanted to be. Hard-boiled detective thriller? Domestic thriller romance? Sci-fi smut? It tries to do all three, and let’s just say, I was disappointed in the first two. I found the mystery and thriller to be a bit uninspiring, conveniently hard to solve because of the people involved and the fact that it’s apparently become easier to wipe all traces of DNA after sex in the future (something I’d have forgiven if this was an amateur sleuth without resources trying to find a killer). The romance I found to be underdeveloped as well, mostly just sexual desire between our two lead characters. I know people adore Roarke, so I’m in the minority for just not caring for him in the slightest. I found him to be patronizing and controlling, more stalkerish than sexy with how he treats Eve, prone to throwing explosive fits if she says “no”. I don’t find that attractive, even though he is supposed to be a handsome billionaire with a delightful accent.
I did, however like the setting a lot. It felt familiar with just enough updated touches to make you feel like you were in a futuristic, slightly cyberpunk version of New York. I also liked that the author didn’t shy away or downplay heavy topics surrounding rape, or sexual abuses done to children by family members. Those are incredibly hard topics to cover well, and the author goes into them, letting the victims tell their stories, in a very visceral way. So, if that’s something you find hard to read, just a heads up because I was a bit surprised by how much of that was in this book, especially when it’s also has the “steamy” romance of the characters going on at the same time.
All in all, if you want a romance series with the backdrop of solving sex-based crimes, you’ll probably like this more than I did. But I wanted the crime and mystery aspects to shine brighter than they did without being pushed to a sub-plot come the second half of the book. I wanted to feel connected and invested in the characters, and I never was. I don’t care for insta-love from alpha a-holes, which seems to be standard fare from billionaire romances. The idea, the premise, of this book and series is so good! But if I have to read more books with Roarke where solving crimes comes secondary to placating his fragile emotions when a lady tells him to back off? No thanks. That’s why I’m giving this book 2 stars, and bidding the series adieu here.
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