With the comfort of having finished the entire series, I can honestly say this is the best book of the five stories. It has the strongest romantic conflict, the best page turning plot, and some of my favorite supporting characters in the series.
The action takes place in New York City where Rick and Sam are staying while he buys a hotel from a Japanese businessman and attend a special art auction. Sam spots her supposedly dead father, and while she's sneaking out to meet with him, someone else is stealing one of the million dollar paintings Rick just won at the auction. Sam is arrested for the theft and finds herself drawn into an increasingly dangerous ring of thieves, trying like hell to stay on the right side of the line and keep herself and Rick alive.
The best thing about this book is the resurgence of Sam's father because Martin is a giant influence on Sam's character--a huge source of vulnerability--and she's not thrilled with Rick meeting him. Martin drags Sam into an art theft ring whose leader gives Sam the choice between helping them or death. It's a high stakes game with a ton of organic conflict because Sam is being forced back into her old life, and Rick knows there's a small part of her enjoying the adrenaline rush.
I love this conflict between them because it reminds the reader that Sam isn't really a white hat. She has a good heart, but she also grew up with a different set of moral codes being drummed into her. Her line is not the same as Rick's, and the gap between those lines drives this plot forward. Sam is always sure that there's a point where Rick can't accept her baggage, and it's that need that keeps the emergency pack and set of clothing close at hand.
Rick drives me less crazy here than he did the last time -- he's really learning how to best handle Sam's vulnerabilities, and even the moments where I want to slap him, there's never a point when I don't understand exactly what he's thinking. That character motivation was lacking just a bit in the last book.
The supporting cast is great -- Patricia comes back and plays a minor role which is fun. The cop that investigates Rick's theft, Sam Gorstein, is a great foil for Sam -- he puts up with way less of her nonsense than Frank does back in Palm Beach. I also like the bad guys we get -- Martin is a frustrating character that completely explains Sam's inability to trust Rick doesn't have a breaking point.
This is my favorite book and considering how much I love this series, that's saying something.