Dear Ms. Connor:
Thank you for sending Dear Author a review copy of your book. I’m not a frequent reader of Harlequin Intrigues so I wouldn’t ordinarily pick up this book. Jillian Jones arrives at Sutton Hall posing as a bride to be in order to investigate the death of her best friend. Jillian was certain that if she had been attending to her maid of honor duties, her friend wouldn’t have died. She also believes that it is highly unlikely that her friend would have fallen off a balcony at Sutton Hall because said friend was afraid of heights. Instead, Jillian believes that there was foul play afoot.
One of my big problems was that the heroine was a photographer and graphic designer. You had to wonder what the heck she was doing investigating what she deemed to be a murder. Was she going to flash the killer to death with her camera? Of course, without this leap of faith, though, you cannot have the story. Thus, you must set aside the ridiculous nature of the setup in order to enjoy the story.
The gothic overtones are done well. There is a foreboding house with secret passage ways, a lost love, and multiple suspects.
- The hero who will do anything to make the Sutton House weddings business come true for his sister.
- The groundskeeper’s son who is beautiful, cocky, shallow and with a secretive past.
- The housekeeper who may have carried a torch for the former owner of Sutton Hall.
- Ed, the handyman who has a contentious relationship with his wife the cook.
- Rosie, the cook whom Meredith Sutton suggests isn’t talented enough to prepare the wedding cakes.
The killer is someone who believes a bride acts in a certain fashion, setting up Jillian as the next victim given that Jillian is having unbridelike thoughts about Adam Sutton. Adam Sutton is trying to help his sister, Meredith, fulfill her dream of running a wedding boutique/bridal chapel on an inherited family property. Ominously he tells us at the end of every POV that he’ll do anything to make sure that he doesn’t mess up her dreams…again.
There are appropriately placed scenes suggesting that Jillian’s life might be in peril from Adam such as when he encourages her to step out in the very balcony where her BFF fell to her death or invites her into his car on a dark night after hers has mysteriously broken down. The problem with Romance gothics is that the hero can’t be a killer (at least not in a Harlequin Intrigue) so some of the tension never fully manifests but the subterfuge is kept up.
Jillian is portrayed as a smart heroine, which isn’t always the norm for a gothic. I also thought the tension between Adam and Jillian had a believable organic evolution between anger -> want.
Suddenly anger wasn’t the only thing he was feeling, and the emotion that had been slowly building deep inside finally burst forth.
Want. Pure, raw want.
There must have been a change in his gaze. He saw the instant she recognized it, her eyes flaring the tiniest bit. With surprise. With awareness.
In the end, while the book tries to juggle the romance and the mystery, the mystery fades a bit as the villain becomes a bit obvious. Still, it was a pleasant and, for me, different diversion. B-