This story has some “trademark” features of a Kelley Armstrong plot, but they work well, and I’m not complaining.
One recurring feature is a very capable heroine who, however, was damaged in her past. It has made her strong, but left her with an air of vulnerability that appeals to the male hero.
Another is the male character: strong, attractive, brooding, and a man of few words but great passion, when he releases it. He has a mysterious past that gives him much pain. But he is also absolutely magnetic and sexually irresistible. He is the quintessential “bad boy” that sensible women warn you away from, but the heroine knows he has a soft part under that shell. Not only can she rely on him, but against all appearances, he needs her.
Great stuff: as appealing now as it was in the days of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. And in each of Armstrong’s books, her heroine who wins the heart of the modern-day Rochester, like Jane, is not necessarily the most attractive woman on the scene. Rather, she wins him over because of what is inside her. This helps broaden the appeal of Armstrong’s stories: any one of us (yes! even me! well, okay, not me…) could be part of such a fantasy. Only Armstrong’s heroine can pull this bad boy out of the abyss, releasing him emotionally to reward her faith in him with an unbridled passion only dreamed of in the pages of books with shirtless guys on the covers. But unlike many of those books, Armstrong’s heroines do much more than sport rippable bodices.
The heroine of this particular book is Casey Duncan, 30, and a cop. Twelve years earlier she killed her former boyfriend – not that she went to meet him intending to kill him, and not that he didn’t deserve it, but it happened, and it haunts her. Now Casey is a detective for her Canadian police force Special Victims Unit. But she is convinced her past will catch up with her.
Casey’s BFF, Diana Berry, has problems too – her ex-husband Graham is stalking her and abusing her when he can get away with it. Diana comes up with a plan for the two of them to escape – she has learned of a town, Rockton, that takes in people on the run. It’s way up in the Yukon, and the residents live somewhat primitively, but the women would be safe. They are accepted into Rockton, in no small part because the sheriff there, Eric Dalton, needs a detective. Rockton only has around 200 residents, but they are people, as Casey understands, who have “either done bad shit or have got serious baggage.” And a disturbing series of murders have recently occurred.
Eric is our “bad boy,” who tries hard not to show he has a nice side. It is only when “he’s off his game” that, as Casey observes, “he forgets he’s supposed to be an asshole.” Other times, he is sullen, withdrawn, and suspicious. But:
“The guy … can morph between the rough-mannered lawman and the conservationist outdoorsman and the coffee-shop intellectual in a blink, because he is all those things, bound together in one very complicated package.”
Well, we know how this comes out! However, there is also the mystery of the crimes at the heart of this book, and everyone is a suspect. Can Casey figure it out? And will it come between her and her growing feelings for this handsome but flawed sheriff?
Evaluation: For subtly-developed passionate romances nested inside interesting plots with plucky heroines and without bad writing, you can’t go wrong with Kelley Armstrong. Reading her books makes me happy; you can hardly ask for more than that!
Note: This is apparently book one of an upcoming series. Yay! #patheticfangirl
Published by Minotaur Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2016