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For the Love of Pete    by Julia Harper order for
For the Love of Pete
by Julia Harper
Order:  USA  Can
Forever, 2009 (2009)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Dante Torelli is a straight laced, by the book Federal Agent who wears designer clothes and drives a flashy BMW. Unbeknownst to Dante, he's been christened Lips of Sin by loopy health food story employee (and part-time poet) Zoey Addler, who just happens to be the sister-in-law of the federal witness he's been assigned to protect. When her niece Pete is nabbed by a mobster's goons, Zoey (who's just dropping by for a visit) leaps into Dante's pristine car and demands he give chase.

After a long chase down busy freeways, the kidnapper finally careens into a gas station and disappears. Before Dante can rescue Pete, however, a purple van veers into the parking lot and two elderly women in saris jump into the kidnapper's van and take off with Pete. Stunned by this odd development, Dante realizes his original mission has now totally gone south. To make matters worse, his own agency is hot on his trail after eyewitnesses finger him as the man who gunned down his team and kidnapped Pete. Before long, they discover that the two elderly Indian women have not only taken Pete, but also the hitman's baby son. Determined to rescue both children, Dante and Zoey manage to track down the cooking-obsessed matrons now taking care of the babies, all the while dodging both mob killers and the federal agents tracking them down.

Julia Harper's second contemporary romance (after last year's Hot) solidifies her reputation as not only a good storyteller, but also a writer adept at injecting just the right amount of comic relief. In this case, the most chuckles are generated by bickering sisters-in-law Savita-di and Pratima and their often-misdirected quest to recover their contraband high-grade saffron, as well as the disagreements that crop up while they try protecting the two babies that have inadvertently dropped into their hands. Bumbling hit man Neil also gets his share of laughs as he frantically tries fixing the whole mixed up baby-napping mess since failure to do so means facing the wrath of his formidable wife, who scares him more than his mobster boss.

Two great leads, their spicy and nicely developed on-the-run romance and just the right amount of suspense and danger make For the Love of Pete a great way to spend a wintry January afternoon.

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