Book reviews à la bookworm...The good, the bad, and everything in between.
For the past twelve years, dr. Erin Sims has tried (in vein) to get someone, anyone, to reexamine her brother’s case. Justin didn’t kill anyone, yet he was sitting on Death Row, waiting for execution. Now, Erin has finally found the real murderer, hiding in plain sight, running a B&B in a small town in Ohio under another name. Unfortunately, that only gets her brother a stay of a week...For the sheriff to determine the man’s true identity.
But Erin has no intention of sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the bumbling sheriff to do his work. Her brother doesn’t have a lifetime to wait. So she boards the plane and heads to Ohio, determined to do what she does best—destroy the murderer’s reputation. Which isn’t hard in a small town. One word and rumors fly.
But Erin has obviously stirred a hornet’s nest, since someone is determined to either run her out of town, deter her just enough to waste time or get rid of her. Permanently. Lucky for her, the sheriff isn’t bumbling at all. Nick Mann knows what he’s doing, and although he’s at first adamant that nothing bad happens in his town, not on his watch, he quickly discovers just how wrong he was. Nothing is as it seems, especially not an out-of-towner determined to prove her brother’s innocence. And small towns can be as bad as big cities. Sometimes even worse.
God, how I loved this story. Just loved it.
I especially loved Erin Sims, the heroine. She was dogged, she had gumption, she was a stubborn, unstoppable force, willing and able to do just about anything to get her brother exonerated. Yet, underneath that core of steel, there was fear and terror, keeping her sharp, keeping her on the edge, keeping her treading forward no matter what.
She was strong, yet vulnerable, stubborn, yet pliant, with a soft heart, and a core of steel. She was far from perfect, she had her flaws, and that’s what made her realistic. She wasn’t a Mary Sue and she wasn’t a damsel in distress, and that made her come through as a “person”. Someone who could be a neighbor or friend, or just someone passing us on the street.
Nick Mann was just the same. A fictitious character, but “real”. Like someone we could know in real life. Stubborn, tough, rough-around-the-edges, but with a protective streak a mile wide, and once you got into the close circle of his, once he determined someone needed protecting, he’d do it no matter the cost.
I loved how he was the only one (at first) who saw the true Erin Sims. He saw through the mask of bravado to the core beneath, a core enveloped by fear. Yet that glimpse didn’t diminish his respect for her, it enforced it, morphed it into something more. Something stronger. And lasting.
Their first meeting was strange. She was bruised and tired, he was half-drunk and pissed off, yet they somehow kicked it off. And though he didn’t
want to believe her at first, he soon realized she was probably the only one telling the truth. So he forgo the memos and reports, and followed his gut, earning her respect in return. And her trust, which, for just reasons, didn’t come easy.
I loved these two to bits, I couldn’t help it. Everything about them seemed “real”. From their personalities, their interactions with each other and everybody else, their relationship, how it progressed from animosity through admiration and gradual earning of trust and respect, to attraction and romance. But the latter, which is a requisite in a romantic suspense, didn’t seem forced or rushed (despite the short amount of time they knew each other). It progressed gradually, at just the right tempo and pace to keep it believable.
Because the reader was there every step of the way, alongside them, the reader was shown (and not told, bravo!) about the two, the reader was shown one through the eyes of the other. That’s what made us understand these two, made us understand what they saw when they looked at the other one, why they felt the way they felt. We were there. We saw it happen.
For me, the characters and their characterization is what’s important in a story. The plot has to be character-driven. I need to empathize, I need to feel something for the characters, about the characters (be it good or bad) to enjoy the story. And since I absolutely adored Erin and Nick, I adored the story.
It didn’t only have these two amazing lead characters, the supporting cast was also wonderfully painted (I loved Nick’s brother, Luke), there was the small town where bad people lived behind masks of civility and did bad things yet everybody refused to believe it could be, there was the wicked, wicked villain (whose identity I actually nailed on the spot, yet wasn’t sure until the end, bravo again Ms Brady), the mystery and suspense was masterfully woven into the story.
And although toward the end the whole thing slowed down quite a lot (a few pages could’ve been shaved off, if you ask me), the overall pacing was absolutely perfect, keeping the story progressing steadily.
If I have a minor problem with this story is the fact I didn’t quite get the villain’s motive. Maybe it got lost in the breakneck action in the end, but I just don’t get it. How and why did the murdered chose its victims? What did they see, hear or know that they had to become angels? No idea. But then the Angelmaker was bonkers. No other explanation needed.
Oh well, despite that minor hiccup...I LOVED THIS STORY! Shouting-from-the-rooftops LOVED it.