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The Bodyguard


The Bodyguard

New York Times bestselling author Katherine Center returns with her most romantic, hilarious novel yet. THE BODYGUARD is the perfect summer read for anyone in need of a reminder that we all deserve love.

Hannah Brooks could kill you with a wine bottle opener, a ballpoint pen or a dinner napkin. While those might sound like magnificent feats for a 5’5” woman, what’s more impressive is how infrequently she has to resort to those kinds of solutions in her job as an Executive Protection Agent --- better known as a bodyguard. Decades of movies, television shows and paparazzi shots may have you convinced that bodyguards are burly, bulky men, but the reality is that most people in need of protection do not want to advertise that.

Enter women like Hannah, who are so good at blending in and sneaking by that they can attend to their high-profile and high-income clients completely unnoticed, thereby keeping them safer than ever. Hannah is one of Glenn Schultz’s best agents, right alongside her boyfriend, Robby. She is at the top of her game, and while she knows that she and Robby will have to compete for a spot at the agency’s new branch in London, she feels that their relationship can weather both the competition and the distance. Except that life has just dealt her several supremely awful hands.

"Center is at the height of her powers here, and her pairing of endearing, tough-girl Hannah and tragic, respectful Jack is perhaps one of her best yet."

First, Hannah’s mother collapsed at a crosswalk, only to be diagnosed with end-stage cirrhosis after a lifetime of alcohol abuse. Hannah’s relationship with her was complicated, but she loved her. Before she could come to terms with the news, her mother was gone. Desperate to pour herself into work, Hannah is sent home for a mandatory bereavement; her boss knows that she can't be vigilant and alert when her body is racked with grief. Then, to top it all off, Robby dumps her, both unceremoniously and cruelly, citing not only her love of work and her seriousness as major issues but also her kissing. Soon after, Robby is sent on an assignment in Madrid with Hannah’s best friend, leaving her with nothing to do and no one to do it with. In Houston, no less!

When Glenn announces that they have a new job and that Hannah is the perfect agent for it, she has visions of far-off countries, endless distractions, and an assignment that will allow her to ignore her agony. Instead, she gets Jack Stapleton, two-time Sexiest Man Alive and one-half of Hollywood’s hottest couple. Jack was once the star of the blockbuster hit The Destroyers, but then a tragic accident killed his younger brother. He has lived in the remote mountains of North Dakota ever since, eschewing both his career and the life of a celebrity. But after being away from the spotlight for a few years, he is returning to Texas to see his mother through cancer treatments. There’s just one problem: his most aggressive stalker, a middle-aged Corgi breeder, happens to live in the same town.

Workaholic Hannah has always told Glenn that she’s like a shark, always needing to move, so she can’t very well turn down a high-profile job like protecting Jack Stapleton. But because of the sensitive nature of his mother’s condition, not only does she have to guard him, she must play the role of his girlfriend to avoid highlighting the dangers of his career. With a plot straight out of rom-com heaven, THE BODYGUARD has all the makings of a swoonworthy, laugh-out-loud story. Add Center’s trademark sensitivity and dimensional characters, and you get far more than you bargained for.

As Hannah and Jack convene at his family’s ranch, Center throws them deep into something that looks a lot like a relationship by grounding the agent-client bond in heavy research (Hannah must memorize not only Jack’s every scar and tattoo, but also his innermost fears, enemies and nightmares) and the tension that comes with close quarters (and only one bed). But this book is not your average romantic comedy. Just as Hannah is dealing with her grief over her mother’s death, her realization that she might have contributed to her recent romantic failure, and her desperation to plunge herself into work, Jack is dealing with some seriously real dysfunction in his family and personal life.

But while Hannah is a stalwart professional, she’s also a woman who has been practically trained to fall in love with Jack from the first time she saw him save the world. Separating the characters from the actor is one thing, but finding out that the actor is a real person with a story himself is another thing entirely. Nothing in Hannah’s years of training has prepared her to act as Jack’s girlfriend --- and nothing can prepare you for how much you are going to love Jack’s parents.

Center is at the height of her powers here, and her pairing of endearing, tough-girl Hannah and tragic, respectful Jack is perhaps one of her best yet. Both characters push one another out of their comfort zones. They are well-versed in acting and reacting, but not so much in being honest with themselves. Much like in THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE, I loved Center's carefully researched examination of life as an agent and how it informs your view of the world and the people in it. In fact, the teasing that goes on in the office made for some of the funniest lines in the book.

In describing one of Jack’s most powerful scenes, Hannah praises “[t]hat raw, human moment of vulnerability coming from the last guy you’d ever expect. It made us all want to be better people. It made us all love him --- and humanity --- just a little bit more.” This statement applies perfectly to each and every protagonist of Center’s novels. But if you’re looking for a delightful pairing, the thrill of real, sweep-you-off-your-feet love, and a dose of serene comfort, THE BODYGUARD will provide all of that and more.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on July 29, 2022

The Bodyguard
by Katherine Center