This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Escape
Released on May 1, 2014
A Romantic Suspense set in Sydney, Australia involving a woman getting a fresh start after being unwillingly married to a much older, brutal crime boss by her own criminal father. All that is in her past or so she thinks until the day she acted as a Good Samaritan to a young woman who was attacked and left in the nearby park.
Lara Moore ran from her past shortly after her abusive criminal husband got a knife through his heart. New name, new city and new identity. Growing up in a family of criminals and being sold by her own father to a bigger and more brutal criminal to pay his debts has left a mark. She got out of all that and none of them know where she is now and she plans to keep it that way. For the first time in her life, she is on her own and free to live like everyone else and rear her beloved son up right in a nurturing, loving environment. Only she struggles to live ‘ordinary’. She has the elderly lady on one side and the retired man on the other with whom she has formed cautious friendships over gardening and weekly shopping trips. Little things that others take for granted or assume about family, daily living and most of all trust are beyond her.
Lara was taught not to trust cops during her growing up years and then a betraying experience when an undercover cop sent to get in with her husband uses her for information and abandons her seals it for her. They’re useless, they’re manipulating liars, and they really don’t care about justice. Now a cop is on her doorstep to ask her questions about the victim of a crime she helped discover and rescue in a park. All her dislike and mistrust rises to the surface and she stiffly and rudely cooperates, but instead of responding in kind, the detective greets her toddler son and then handles her gently even to the point of checking how she is doing after making the discover of a brutal attack. But he’s only being nice because he wants something, right? Only that doesn’t ring true as evidenced by his solicitous behavior afterward and his interest in her as a person. He even helps her weed her garden for Pete’s sake. Then he asks her to help the amnesiac victim Brooke by visiting and coaxing her memories. See! Using her, but even she understands the motivation behind the request isn’t the same at all and she is forced to begin rethinking her assumptions.
Nick Lawson has never met a more prickly, defensive and skittish person as Lara Moore. He works it out really quick that it is his vocation as a policeman that sets her off. His common sense tells him to back away from his attraction and give her up as too much work, but his heart makes him keep returning for another try and his gut tells him that Lara has a past that is familiar with being on the wrong side of the law. This is confirmed when he is with her as she encounters a familiar thug at the hospital while visiting Brooke. The guy knows her by another name and his very presence terrifies her. Lara’s other name soon leads Nick to discover she is connected to an infamous crime family. He learns that the connection might not be all in the past as former members of Lara’s former husband’s organization have begun trickling into Sydney and the crimes involving drugs have escalated. Coincidentally, Lara’s oldest brother, Ivan, claims to have gone legit and wants a second chance to be in her life. He seems clean even though he is still in touch with others who are not. Nick has to tread so carefully both with his investigations and his tentative relationship with Lara. He wants to believe in her innocence, but he is well aware she is keeping secrets that have the potential to blow up his career and maybe even people’s lives.
This was an engaging story from the outset. It is told from Lara and Nick’s points of view and that is a very good thing otherwise their words and actions wouldn’t make sense particularly Lara’s. The suspense portion offers up two different intriguing plot threads with the case of the attack on Brooke and the situation with the criminal organization moving into the area along with the possible connection of Lara’s family and associates to both. There is always the question throughout the story concerning the innocence of Lara and her brother, Ivan. I love it when I just don’t know and have to wait it out until the end.
As to the romance aspect, there is a lot of deep and complicated stuff going on making it almost as suspenseful as the suspense. They come from such completely different worlds and have a vast chasm separating them in the way they think, interpret things, regard relationships and family, and just life. In the beginning, it is all Nick reaching out and then slowly Lara.
The romance will require a lot of patience and understanding. It was like two steps forward and one step or several times the full two steps back. It would be an understatement to say that Lara has a lot of baggage. In fact, she has so much baggage that she has no idea that she is the one sabotaging their relationship each and every time there is trouble or even just a serious conversation. She snarls and snaps, she reacts always like a cornered feral animal and she keeps big stuff from Nick, but can’t understand why he pulls back each time she does it and shows her his ‘cop face’ as she calls it. To her, Nick’s attempts to protect his hurting heart are just evidence that he’s a manipulative jerk. It’s well over the half-way point that she even apologizes for this type of stuff.
Now normally, this sort of behavior just wouldn’t fly with me at all. However, knowing her horrendous past allowed me to feel sympathy that she is so broken that she can barely function around normal people. Instead of throwing up my hands in frustration, I just silently cheered her on with each baby step toward healing and happiness. And Nick, gah! The man is a true romantic hero. He stuck it out through more than even other fictional heroes would. He put himself out there over and over. This did not make him a doormat because he called Lara on her evasions, lying, false assumptions and he took things slow. He wanted her to heal and he wanted her to trust before they went any further.
In fact, this book is technically a sweet romance because they do little more than exchange kisses. Not once did I feel the loss of the sensuality in the romance because it worked without it. Truthfully, as broken and messed up from the head job her family and dead husband did on Lara, I would have been put off if they jumped in the sack.
I only had one niggle in the end. I wanted to know what happened when Ivan disclosed his past to Susanna. Maybe they get their own book later? Hopefully? Hint Hint!
All in all, it was a fabulous read and one of the best romantic suspenses I’ve read in a while. It isn’t easy, but I found it definitely worth it. Lovers of Romantic Suspense with a mob or criminal organization backdrop should try this one on for size.
My thanks to Escape Publishing and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for my honest review.
Evidence of Love by Elisabeth Rose
Why did Branko have to be here at just the wrong moment? What ill-fated cosmic alignment caused that? He wasn’t a friend, she detested him as much as the rest of her family. He’d tried to woo her when she was sixteen but her father put a stop to that. He had bigger plans for her than a newly arrived migrant boy. For once she’d been pleased with her father’s strictures.
And what was he doing in Sydney with Ivan? Starting up their own crime network? If it was true her brother was here. Would Ivan leave Melbourne?
She glanced over her shoulder as she went through the main doors. Her heart nearly leapt from her chest. He’d been held up by something but now Branko was crossing the foyer towards the exit. That thin-lipped mouth sat in a tight line, the eyes firmly fixed on her, a tiger stalking its prey. In black. He always wore black, even in the oppressive heat of summer. Doom-laden.
The flimsy control she’d mustered deciding how to lose him, shattered. Her legs propelled her forward in a stumbling, breath-tearing run and she pushed past some slow-moving people out onto the footpath and hurried panting towards the road. Please let there be a taxi or even a bus. Please, please, please.
Cars, vans, no taxis, no busses. Couldn’t stand still. Had to move. Run. No, walk. Running was too obvious. Take a side street. Out of sight. She turned right at the main entrance, crossed the road the better to catch a cab going that way and headed towards Parramatta Road. Such a beautiful morning, crisp air clearing her head, steadying her nerves. The side street corner was metres away. A quick look over her shoulder. No sign of Branko but he couldn’t be far behind her. He wouldn’t know she didn’t have a car so he may not try to follow. Was she panicking unnecessarily? But she couldn’t let him know where she lived. If he discovered that she’d have to sell up and move. Go to another city. Start again. If she had to, she would.
A white car slowed beside her and a voice called through the open passenger window, ‘Get in.’
Lara paused for a split second then flung the door open and collapsed into the front seat.
Nick accelerated. Lara turned for a quick look back and saw Branko, hands on hips, staring at the traffic. Had he seen her?
‘Care to tell me what that was about?’ Nick didn’t sound angry, more curious.
‘No.’ She closed her eyes, head back. ‘Not yet.’
‘Seatbelt,’ he said.
She clipped it obediently. ‘Thanks.’
‘Where are we going? Hairdresser?’
‘No. Home. I…fibbed.’ She bit her lip, hesitated. ‘I don’t want him to know where I live.’
‘He doesn’t know?’
‘No. No-one does. From before.’
She nodded. ‘I had to get away.’ She owed him at least that much information but he’d have to be satisfied with a crumb.