(Note: Elizabeth Lowell originally released this under the penname Ann Maxwell. All of the paperback editions that I have seen are using the Ann Maxwell name. The Kindle edition however seems to be listed under the Elizabeth Lowell name.)
This is romantic suspense at its best. It roams from Tibet to the Caribbean and on to the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound with a few stops in Washington DC along the way.
The heroine, Dani Warren, is a professor specializing in textiles and textile preservation. She is in Tibet, having just finished several months along the Silk Road living with the native tribes studying their textiles. She is approached by someone offering a piece of ancient silk for purchase. Not a legitimate purchase of course, it's obviously a cultural treasure. But she plans to purchase it anyway - she fears the rough handling of the thief will destroy the silk. Which is why she is walking into a dark alley in Lhasa to meet the thief, even though she realizes it's both stupid and dangerous.
Of course she's being followed, by various bad guys, and one good guy, Shane Crowe. Shane works for Risk Limited, and is trying to retrieve the silk. It is both a cultural and religious artifact and was stolen from the Azure monks who believe it was the Buddha's own robe. The Red Chinese and the Harmony (the kind of organization that gives the Mafia nightmares) both want the silk to further their own ends.
They all end up in that dark alley with Dani and the thief. The thief ends up dead, and Shane rescues Dani rather than the silk. The Harmony's chief thug gets the silk, the red Chinese continue their search, and Dani and Shane escape across Tibet. And that's just in the first eight chapters.
Dani and Shane continue to pursue the silk from the Caribbean to Puget Sound while their attraction gets steadily more intense. But there is a complication (isn't there always?) Shane has sworn a limited vow of celibacy, something that heroine doesn't find out until it's much too late. And then there are the heroine's trust issues concerning big men...
This is book has a lot of sexual sizzle, but not a great deal of actual sex. At least, not until the hero and the heroine resolve their issues.
I love the characters. Shane is complicated, a warrior attempting to make peace with his soul. Dani is the type of intelligent, determined woman we'd all like to be. Cassandra and Gillespie (Shane's bosses) are fascinating in their own right.
The plot is complex and fast moving without overwhelming the love story. The author achieves a nice balance of action and romance - I loved it!
There is a second Risk Limited novel out there. Originally released as The Ruby (and under the Ann Maxwell pen name), it has been re-released (and I believe re-written) as Whirlpool under the Elizabeth Lowell name.