|Connie Lane: Romancing Riley|
(Paperback), ISBN 0-440-23596-0
Riley Callahan, second generation rock 'n' roll royalty described as a "full-time flake, part-time celebrity and freelance shopper," strives to free her father, Max Callahan, from his exile in Tibet. Riley must prove him innocent of tax evasion. Then he can return to the United States and his wealthy lifestyle and celebrity status as lead singer for the Pandemoniacs.
In the meantime, while he languishes in Tibet, she provides for herself as a "freelance shopper." Her lifestyle slips from excessive to impoverished, yet she enjoys her independence.
Riley, hired by the government, shops for people entering the federal witness protection program. She tracks down and buys their hard-to-find last requests -- caviar, one-of-a-kind chutney, rare teas, expensive champagne, exclusive or favorite items. Sometimes, on rare occasions, she returns the items when the witnesses change their minds or, in the case of Eugene Paynter, dies.
Riley hates Eugene, her father's accountant and the villain who "cooked the books" thus causing Max's run-in with the Feds. Yet she mourns Eugene's death because he holds the truth that will free Max.
By chance Riley finds a key that sets her on a scavenger hunt into danger and leads to the proof she needs. Charlie Zap, federal marshal assigned to investigate Riley, accompanies her on this quest. She regards him as a bodyguard sent by Max. Zap views Riley as a suspect involved in an information leak that caused the death of protected witnesses, including Eugene. Trailing Zap and Riley, we see Adam Lopresti, a local thug who can only bring trouble.
Through a variety of close calls, including an Elvis look-alike contest, biker bar fight and break-in to Riley's apartment, Riley and Zap draw closer to the secrets and to each other. As characters go, Zap represents the conservative, traditional, family-focused, blue-collar man. Riley personifies the liberal, off-the-wall weird world of musicians, drugs, excesses and experimental live-for-the-moment lifestyle. Interesting scenes develop when traditionalist meets experimentalist and he takes her home to meet the family.
Lively dialogue, tongue-in-cheek humor and sympathetic, original characters add up to a enjoyable, happily-ever-after read. But don't discount the suspenseful quest dotted with villains and near-death experiences.
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