Friday, December 23, 2011


In Protection for Hire, author Camy Tang injects dry humor into an inspirational tale of romantic suspense, dysfunctional families and … the Japanese Mob.


In the world of organized crime, loyalty is everything. Tessa Lancaster's loyalty to her uncle, the head of the San Francisco Yakuza, is fierce. Seven years ago she went to prison for a crime she didn't commit in order to protect him. When Tessa finally exits her incarceration she is a changed woman and, despite her uncle's generous offers, she refuses to go back to her lucrative life as an enforcer for the Yakuza.

Uncle Teruo can't understand why Tessa's newfound faith should keep her from returning to her duties, but Tessa is determined to find a way to support herself without help from the Japanese Mob. As an ex-con and an ex-Yakuza, however, it's awfully hard to find a job. Volunteering at a local battered women's shelter helps her to pass the time as the rejected job applications stack up, and it is there that Tessa meets Elizabeth, a wealthy Southern belle who is hiding from an abusive husband.

Elizabeth doesn't share the other residents' fear of Tessa. In fact, not only does she befriend the former Mob enforcer, she hires Tessa to be her bodyguard. Elizabeth believes her husband wants her dead and that Tessa can keep her safe until her money and freedom are secured. But Tessa can only do so much. To truly get Elizabeth free from her husband, they need legal help.

Charles Britton is an up-and-coming lawyer. When his mother, Elizabeth's godmother, calls to enlist him in helping in Elizabeth's plight, Charles thinks it will be a quick and easy pro bono case to pad his portfolio and push him closer toward partnership. When he discovers that Elizabeth has hired not only a convicted killer, but notoriously violent Tessa Lancaster to be her bodyguard, however, he is more than a little disturbed. Aware of the details of Tessa's trial, as well as her violent past, Charles can't help but doubt that Tessa has really changed. Has she really left the Yakuza? Is that even possible?

As danger encroaches, Tessa and Charles are drawn together not only by their common goal to protect Elizabeth and her young son, but by an attraction that defies their every attempt to remain aloof.

Elizabeth's case isn't as simple as it first appears and her ex-husband, while a true danger to his family, might turn out to be the least of Tessa's worries.


Charles is a handsome, success-driven guy who doesn't want to rock the boat. In fact, there are times he seems so uptight that you almost wish someone would prescribe that boy an enema. Be that as it may, however, he is a perfect foil for Tessa.

A volatile personality with the skills to back up her anger issues, Tessa is beautiful, smart, and an expert at mixed martial arts. Since opposites do tend to attract, the chemistry between Tessa and Charles is practically combustible. As they fight against their own natures and learn to respond to challenges in healthier ways, a sweet humanity and depth are realized that make the attraction spark to life.

I would have liked to have seen the violent Yakuza underbelly exposed a little more directly, but I must admit that Tessa's fight scenes, though brief, were pretty awesome. Even though this novel is not afraid to plant its fist in gritty girl power, it still allows Tessa to discover the allure of her own long-hidden femininity. Tessa Lancaster is a heroine who, even at her most vulnerable, stays true to character.


Protection for Hire has a colorful cast, a lot of action, and enough sarcasm to keep the author's chick-lit audience in the palm of her hand. Ending the novel with a satisfyingly bow-free lead into the next book, Camy Tang has built a strong foundation for a kick-butt new series.

(This review originally appeared at USA Today's romance fiction blog, Happy Ever After.)

Serena's Rating
PS: don't you just love the cover of this book??? -- it's creating quite a buzz!


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