"How about we make a deal. I'll tell you how I got here if you tell me why no one wants you to stay."
When I first came across this novel, I was intrigued. Lucy Sadler Caldwell, a successful crime novelist, returns to her hometown of Dobbs Hollow in order to solve her mother's seventeen year old murder. Lucy's mother was a prostitute and town outcast, so the local police were not as inclined to work hard at solving her murder as they should have been. But, is there more to the shoddy police work than just her mother's reputation? Was her mother specifically targeted in order to keep secrets from coming to light?
Lucy will work to uncover the truth with the help of town Chief of Police, Ethan Donovan. Donovan, a newcomer to Dobbs Hollow, is one of the few people willing to help Lucy find her mother's killer.
See? Pretty interesting set up for a romantic suspense novel. Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where the concept is great, but the story doesn't live up to its potential.
Here is the breakdown:
❖ The Suspense (Spoilers):
I thought the suspense portion of the story fell flat. It's quite obvious who the villains are. There are very little surprises here. In fact, we are given the identity of one set of villains very early on, and are then forced to watch as the two leads work to uncover what we as readers already know. This took some of the suspense out of the romantic suspense.
I get what the author is trying to do here, but for me it just didn't work as intended. What it accomplished instead was to make the final portion of the book anticlimactic since there are very little surprises. That's not to say that there aren't a few things that caught me by surprise. But, for the most part, it just wasn't enough.
I was also annoyed by the fact that one of the villains engages in 'I'm going to kill you, but first let me tell you the where, what, and why' type dialogue during a pivotal scene. I thought that was kind of silly. Also, the villains do something so stupid and nonsensical, that it actually leads to their eventual capture.
The motives behind the crimes are also anticlimactic. I thought one in particular was kind of ridiculous.
❖ The Romance:
The romance portion of the story also fell flat. There is very little chemistry between the leads, and not enough build up in their relationship. Part of the problem is that the Hero and Heroine are attracted to each other almost immediately, they kiss within a few days of meeting, so the rest of the relationship is filled with a little bit of manufactured angst. I found it all quite bland and uninteresting. Overall, I just didn't feel the romance was well developed.
❖ Other Thoughts:
There is one other issue that jumped out at me while reading this story. I found the way certain characters were handled to be problematic. The few minority characters that make an appearance, or are referred to, were portrayed as clumsy stereotypes:
- There is only one African American male character in the story, and he also happens to be an ex-convict (with multiple prison tattoos) who has turned his life around. There are two purposes for Josh's very brief appearance on page. The major one is to prop up and service the characterizations of the Hero and Heroine: the Hero is friendly with this town outcast, and the Heroine flirts with him and asks about one of his tattoos. It is implied that the Hero is impressed with the Heroine because of the way she reacts to Josh: "...she'd chosen to befriend the only recognizable convict in town." Once this character building exercise is done, we never see Josh again. The second purpose is to show us the town has issues with race: "Black ex-con engaged to white woman in a small southern town. Lucy guessed "tenous" didn't begin to describe their situation." Of course, this also serves a dual purpose: to give us further insight into Lucy herself since she is not like the town, and doesn't have a problem with it.
- There are two homosexual characters. One is only made reference to, but does not appear on page. The sole purpose of his existence in the story is to prop up Lucy's mother by showing us her "good" side. Lucy's mother helped him keep his sexuality a secret by pretending to sleep with him. This character also died of AIDS years earlier. The second homosexual character
- There are two Latino males in the story. Both are involved with drugs.
At no time does a person of color or minority group appear on page as a person in their own right. As just an average citizen. They are either there to serve as a plot point, or service the characterizations of pivotal characters. Now granted, there are quite a number of non-POC characters that are used in much the same way, but the difference is that there are other characters available to counteract it.
Despite all of these issues, the story did hold my interest enough for me to see it through until the end. However, it was not enough for me to give it a higher rating.
Final Rating: 2 stars