Love stories don’t usually start with tripping over a dead body.
But mine did. That’s when I met him.
Xander Novak wasn’t like the guys from around here. The cowboy with a mysterious accent had secrets, sure. But he helped me escape certain death and welcomed me into his home.
Or did he? Because his home could be my safe haven… or it could be my prison.
And I could be walking straight into the arms of a killer.
2.75/3 Stars (3 stars for the mystery-suspense/2.75 for the romance)
Rosie Dominquez, 23, is a waitress, scrapping by while living in a trailer park in Texas. On her day off, in a quest to get some peace and quiet from her neighbors, she sets off into the woods to read and take some landscape photography. There she discovers a dead body and meets Xander Novak, 32.
A note to the millennial readers: This story is set in 1989. Translation: the characters aren’t using cell phones, cameras require rolls of film, Willard Scott is the Today show weatherman, and Czechoslovakia is a country. Old enough to remember those days, I didn’t mind the time frame. In fact, it was a bit of a refreshing change.
This story is actually the prequel to the author’s Falling Small Duet, although it can be read as a standalone. None the less, I feel that knowledge might be prudent to some readers. See safety recap.
I swayed a little on my rating of this one, mostly because I think it depends on the genre you’re looking to read it in. It’s a romantic suspense with thriller overtones. The suspense tone and mood is developed well, and it pulled me in as a mystery more than a romance, mostly because I didn’t become attached to either Rosie or Xander, nor was their chemistry palpable. I kept reading mainly to find out what happens and how everything fit together rather than because I was invested in them as a couple.
Told solely via Rosie’s first person POV, romance readers (like myself) who enjoy the stranded together trope for its absence of OW/OM presence will appreciate the set up. I think the story started off strong, but dropped off as it progressed.
No cheating. No sex scene w/OP. No OW/OM drama. H is not a manwhore and has been celibate for a while; h is not a virgin. No rape or sexual abuse although there is a brief moment where attempted rape is suggested. There is no cliffhanger, but based on a review of the Duet series I can’t say this is technically an HEA. It feels like an HEA if you read this as a standalone, but it appears if you keep reading the other books it is actually a HFN as h ultimately dies in first book of the Duet series, set many years later.