I was very excited to try this new series by a new to me author primarily because of the setting- mountain search & rescue work. And it wasn’t just the common police and fire, but dive rescue team, too. It was new and exciting all around when paired with the romance and the suspense. I enjoyed the author’s easy blend of quirky humor, adorable heartwarming, rising heat, tightening suspense, and taut action.
As noted above, this is a launch of a new series, but I did want to point out that there is a prequel novella, On His Watch, available for free. It can easily be skipped to this one, but worth snagging since it features secondary character, Derek Warner’s romance.
The story opens with the Search & Rescue dive team up at an iced over mountain reservoir practicing a rescue. Lou is new to the team and is working hard to prove she belongs even though it tickles her fancy to poke and tease at the too serious and stern leader, Callum Cooke. Lou is attracted to the seeming frigid man and wishes to see respect for her in his eyes though that will be tough because she tends to bumble and stumble around him.
Lou is in the water doing her practice rescue when she kicks into something under the water. A body floats to the surface. And now things start to get interesting. Lou is determined to help discover the identity of the body in the lake aka HDG (Headless Dead Guy, but she must be PC about that). To her surprise, her attempt to rope Callum into being her sleuthing partner works though she is pretty sure his Nancy Drew remark says it all.
But the body is only one of several disturbing incidents. From slashed tires, to footprints outside her cabin window, to vandalism, and escalating actions, Lou learns she has a stalker. Callum quietly makes it clear that she now has more than a sleuthing partner until the stalker is found. Lou worked hard to learn independence and prove to her parents and to herself that she is no longer that passive, needy girl so relying on Callum and the rest of the S&R team’s help is tough. But if it means more time with the irascible mysterious Callum? She’ll take it. And if her crush starts turning more serious and Callum’s actions indicate more than a mild interest, Lou won’t think about that too much.
The story, by it’s setting and elements alone, was sure to gain my interest and I’d already met many of the key players through the prequel. So I was set to dive in and immerse in the story. It was a good blend of gently-paced contemporary romance, exciting ice/water rescue scenes, and suspense. It took me a little bit to sync with the author’s writing style and get used to Lou’s personality, but then I got used to it and settled in.
Lou is the main narrator with her unknown stalker getting brief snippets here and there. So it was a big deal that I connect with her which I eventually did. Lou came off as a little flaky to me which was where I struggled, but I don’t want to give a wrong impression since ultimately I liked her and respected her. She’s smart, capable, skilled, and somewhat vulnerable. Her sense of humor is fun and she brightens each scene. She has a tendency toward sarcasm, off-beat humor, and chatter when she is nervous.
Now, the choice to give Lou all the narration and leave Callum as somewhat a mystery was understandable, but it also contributed to me struggling to figure him out and connect with him as Lou’s love interest. While I appreciated the slow tease of getting to know him along with Lou, I also felt that there was always some distance even by the end. It’s not until late in the story that his background and thus, the reason for his behavior and closed personality, are made known. The reader really has to work for it to pull out nuggets about his personality and backstory to get to know him. He’s likeable and trustworthy, but holds people at a distance including Lou though she comes the closest to figuring out what makes him tick. I’m a curious sort and wanted the whys behind it. With Callum it’s all about subtlety from his routine, to his expression, his speech, and his emotions. He’s actually Lou’s polar opposite.
Fortunately, this worked for the romance. The author didn’t spotlight attraction and lust though it was there. She put this pair into daily activities and lots of time spent together- working around the house, their sleuthing case, ice rescue, the coffee shop. Each little scene, conversation, and shared glance meant something. It was slow burn and I was convinced it was going to be a sweet romance until three-fourths of the way when the sexy times happened. And it happened right when it should and I didn’t feel the story lacked because of it. Both the characters have hang-ups whether it is Lou’s past with an ex and manipulative parents or Callum’s suppressed emotions and need for order because of his own past so taking their time made sense.
As to the suspense, there was the murdered man from the lake and the stalker. I enjoyed how both the suspense elements played out. One was easy to figure out and was meant to be and it finished in this book at the exciting climax scene. But the other element will be an ongoing issue into the next story. The author cleverly introduced the next hero and connected him and his situation with the suspense so it will tie easily with this story.
In summary, I was left with a new series to anticipate. The author’s blend of humor, romance, small town- search & rescue setting, and suspense was a fantastic hit for me. I can recommend this to contemporary romance and romantic suspense fans.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #102 RS
Literary Pickers #92 ruler