My first encounter with the suspense-filled world of Jayne Ann Krentz and it won’t be my last. I was hoping for a mystery I could sink my teeth into and some romance as well. I got way better than I was expecting. Just when I thought I had things figured out, a new twist would happen to send that theory careening away. What a fantastic blend of romance and suspense.
The story was a standalone and that had appeal for a first-time encounter.
Beginning in the past with a brutal encounter that set things in motion that for eighteen years seemed to lie dormant before forcing their way into the light, the story gets off to an exciting start with a murder and an attempted murder for Madeline Chase when she is called back to the old, memory-filled hotel in the San Juan Islands of Washington State.
Madeline inherited her grandmother’s hotel and hospitality empire after her recent death. Madeline has always had issues in relationships and likes to be firmly in charge. But she meets her match in her hotel’s security firm owner, Jack Raynor. Jack is nothing like the men she usually goes for and he ruffles her feathers, but when a present murder, a murderer who came after her, and the past threatening to surface again, Jack is the one person she wants by her side to help sort it all out.
Jack is attracted to Madeline, but he has his own issues that keep him from wanting to try for anything lasting. But he can’t help rushing into action when the stubborn woman gets herself into danger and won’t back down from the truth. He admires this even as he uses all his former FBI profiling skills and intuition to solve the case that connects to several other people who may or may not be involved.
The threat brings on the reunion of Madeline and Daphne who were best friends since Daphne seems to be in the killer’s crosshairs, too. With the help of Jack and his brother, the foursome work fast to expose the secrets of the past and how it bares on the present even as danger strikes again and again.
As I said, this one was very satisfying and delivered on my need for a gritty, engaging romantic suspense. The story is told from multiple points of view by all the key players. This both kept me close to the action and muddied the waters so I was never sure if my narrator was reliable or not. I found this exciting and worked well for stirring up the mystery and increasing the suspense.
This shifting of characters and scenes was not confusing and the main narrators were Madeline and Jack.
The pacing was steady with blips of excitement. At first there are puzzle pieces everywhere for possibilities, but slowly the pieces lock together and the bigger picture emerges. The tone was that of tightening and loosening tension which kept my interest throughout. I had part of the mystery figured out, but there were enough surprises so that I didn’t have the whole answer. I liked that Jack’s past was a secondary mystery that kept teasing me and making me wonder whenever hints were given.
The main and minor characters were colorful and engaging. Even the ones I didn’t like were still interesting.
The heroine is a tough cookie. She is strong, confident, knows her own mind, and naturally takes charge. She trusts few and relies on herself. But she is also out of her depth in this situation which opens the door for her to experience something with Jack that she never would have had otherwise.
As to Jack, he was wounded by some of those closest to him which makes him set aside relationships and focus on his business. He exudes capability and skill at what he does. He is rough and tough with no bend in him. He sees Madeline well and accepts her just as she is. It’s himself that he can’t see clearly.
Jack’s brother, Abe, and Madeline’s childhood friend, Daphne, are very present secondary characters with their own subplot going on. I think Abe was my favorite character in the story. I liked him from the first description, but then wow, he is so much more than at first he appeared.
The villainous suspects are done well. The author was able to make me understand the motivation and the background while seeing that clearly there is evil intent. And man, there was most definitely some evil that gives one the shivers.
The romance was a twofer deal. Madeline and Jack were the main relationship with Abe and Daphne more of something hinted at. For me, it felt more like a suspense with a thread of romance weaving through it. The focus is on solving the case to save their lives, but as they go Madeline really sees Jack and wants him while Jack has to open up for the new chance. They are both forthright people so they get right to the point. There is some passion, but it is near the end due to the barriers between the two.
In summation, my first encounter with the author will not be my last. I loved this dark twisting tale and the balance of the blended romantic suspense. I can recommend this to romantic suspense fans who want a challenging mystery, a great cast of characters, and a slow-build romance.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.