Getting My Vroom Vroom On With Tara Janzen
by Kiersten Hallie Krum
Welcome to the first installment of my new monthly feature on romantic suspense. On the second Monday of the month, I will be profiling one of my favorite romantic suspense writers/series–both personal classics and those I’ve only recently cottoned on to–along with interviews and whatever else floats my boat. Because I’m not just a writer of romantic suspense novels, I like to read them too!
First on the docket is Tara Janzen’s Steele Street series. Once a group of superior car thieves with their own chop shop, the men of Steele Street now work as members of the secretive Special Defense Force, clandestine operations out of the Department of Defense while maintaining an undercover personae as (legitimate) high-end, specialty gear heads. Their back stories are murky, their hotness level is high, their enemies, both political and actual, are deadly, and their angst, like their cars, is fully loaded. They are a mix of ex-cons, soldiers, spies, geeks, and one is even a bonafide, all-American hero. They live and work out of a tricked-out building in trendy downtown Denver (LoDo) filled with souped-up muscle cars and high-tech, somewhat illegal, equipment.
Total RS catnip.
Back in the day, I majorly fell down the rabbit hole with this series as I am wont to do. The first book, Crazy Hot, was released in 2005, somewhat before ebooks became the de rigueur in publishing that they are today, which meant I actually placed orders at book stores to load up my missing back list (I don’t know why I didn’t use Amazon) and harassed Barnes and Noble clerks as to why they weren’t carrying the available books in the series as a whole (lack of shelf space, duh).
The Steele Street series has all the hallmarks of a great romantic suspense series. Rooted in Denver, the action is spread over an international stage with much of the darkest parts of the plot unraveling in Columbia and other parts of South America. Nasty stuff happens too, kidnappings and brutal killings and enforced drug addiction and nuclear bombs up for sale to name a few. High-octane action, vulnerable, emotional romance…and, holy smokes, but are these books hawt. I dig their retro covers and how each title has its own distinctive color too. Distinctive packaging for the win!
But for me, as always, it’s all about the character and the emotional drama, and the Steele Street series is crammed end-to-end with both. The camaraderie and trust between these heroes is the kind that only comes with time and life or death situations. These guys have been at each others backs from time before they could shave and that bond runs deep and stays strong through a helluva lot of crazy. There is deep darkness in their history together, some of which is back story, some of which plays out through the books, but in the end, the men of Steele Street will do anything for each other–and their women.
Make no mistake, the ladies of Steele Street are no pushovers either. From a drag racing, graffiti-artist, tech-head to a former librarian Russian party girl to the girl next door to an edgy visual artist to a mousey assistant turned bad ass assassin to the socialite daughter of a powerhouse senator, the ladies bring their bad boys to heel one way or another.
The plots may occasionally strain the bonds of credulity but are any wonky chain of events is stabilized the deep characterization and breathtaking pace that keeps the pages turning. Not every title is a hit out of the park, but each one is worth the read. They’re fun and often funny and the hard-won HEAs feel hard-earned. Writing this post alone has wet my craving to reread them all, straight from the beginning.
Of the lot, my favorite is Crazy Cool. Reunited lovers with heaps and heaps of angst between them is one of my favorite romance tropes and Crazy Cool does not disappoint in that area. Look! A blurb!
She’s sizzling hot…He’s icy cool.
He called her Bad Luck Dekker, a gorgeous socialite who trailed trouble in her wake. Christian Hawkins should know. Thirteen years ago he saved Kat Dekker’s life—only to spend two years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Now it’s déjà vu all over again when he rescues Kat from an explosion that rips through a Denver art auction. This time Christian—now an operative with an elite U.S. task force—plans to keep her close until he figures out why somebody wants to kill her. That is, if he can keep his cool around this sizzling-hot lady.…
The daughter of a senator, Kat hasn’t forgotten the hot summer nights of passion in Christian’s arms before everything went wrong. Now, as the bullets start flying, the sexy, self-appointed bodyguard is back in her life in a major way. Especially when Christian kidnaps her and they go roaring into the night in his brute-powered muscle car. But staying out of danger is tough for two people who are this hot for each other, a little bit crazy, and a whole lot in love….
Cristo and Kat’s story breaks my heart…and cracks me up. Their tender romance as young lovers was brutally ripped apart by outside forces and the fall out shaped both their futures and not in good ways. Now Cristo has to protect Kat as someone dredges up all their old baggage from the murder for which he was wrongly convicted thirteen years ago—and later pardoned after serving two years in a maximum security penitentiary–while actively trying to frame Cristo for a whole new set of killings. Cristo is a certified bad ass mofo and so hot, the asphalt practically melts when he walks down the street. His street name is “Superman”–the man of steel–but even steel melts if it gets hot enough. Despite her monetary advantages, Kat has been bullied by her mother her entire life to the point of being shut away in a mental asylum in the wake of Cristo’s long ago arrest when Kat refused to admit the street thief had violated the princess and Done Her Wrong. She’s spent the in-between years wrenching a life for herself from her mother’s grip–a life that is now threatened as their combined murky, murderous past is once-again center stage.
So if you’re in the market for some sexy romantic suspense that’ll rev all your engines, buckle up with the Steele Street gang for crazy, loose, action-packed, smokin’ ride.
And follow Lady Smut. We’ll be sure to rev you right up.
Get all the Steele Street books now by clicking on the images below.