Readers of this review should know that Jill Sorenson contributes f/f and f/f/m reviews to this blog on a once-a-month basis.
Dear Ms. Sorenson,
Contemporary romantic suspense is a genre I can enjoy a lot when a book is well-executed, but most of the time, I don't find myself drawn to reading books in this genre the way I am with some other genres of romance. However, I have enjoyed your comments and posts on this blog, and was intrigued enough by Jane's reviews of your first two single titles that when Jane emailed the DA loop about your latest single title romantic suspense, The Edge of Night, being available for review, I decided to give it a try.
The Edge of Night begins with the discovery of a body in an old schoolyard-turned-gang hideout. Chula Vista police officer Noah Young is the first on the scene. The victim is Lola Sanchez, a drug-addicted waitress who worked at a place called Club Suave.
Lola was raped before she was choked with a clear plastic bag, and even though he didn't know her, Noah wants justice for her. Noah is a gang unit cop, not a homicide detective, but he has his eye on advancement to the latter role. He wants to aid the investigation, and since homicide is understaffed, Noah and Patrick Shanley, his cynical partner, are sent to Club Suave to interview the staff.
Twenty-three year old April Ortiz works at Club Suave to make ends meet. Having been burned by a bad relationship in her past, April is reserved with men and doesn't enjoy wearing the skimpy outfit her job requires, but she can't afford to lose her job. April is a single mom putting herself through a Social Work degree and the income from the work at Club Suave supports Jenny, her five year old daughter.
Just before Noah and Patrick arrive at Club Suave, Eddie, the club's owner, with whom Lola sometimes had sex, hints to the waitresses that he doesn't want the police to learn about his connection to Lola. April can't afford to lose her job, so although she's drawn to Noah, she doesn't give him or Patrick much to go on until they are about to leave. Then she slips Noah a note with information about a gangster Lola was seeing before her murder.
When April gets home that night, she discovers that her mother, Josefa, who was supposed to be babysitting Jenny, went out to party and left the child alone. April knows her mother is addicted to drugs and that she will have to serve Josefa some tough love, but she also knows it won't be easy.
Meanwhile, Noah apprehends Tony Castillo, the gangster Lola was involved with. Tony has a solid alibi – cameras place him crossing the border into Tijuana before the murder, and returning afterward in he company of another man, whose face wasn't caught on camera.
The man is Eric Hernandez, the brother of Jenny's father, April's former lover Raul. Raul is serving a prison term and Eric, his brother tries to look in on Jenny and April and help them out when he can. In addition for selling drugs for the Chula Vista Locos, the gang he belongs to, Eric works at a food market and tags walls with artistic graffiti.
One night, Noah arrives home to find his sister Meghan waiting for him. Meghan has dropped out of Chapel College, a Christian school that her religious mother insisted she attend, just as she was about to begin her sophomore year. Now Megan insists that she wants to live with Noah in Chula Vista, and although Noah knows his parents would disapprove, he gives in to Meghan's request.
Meghan gets a job at the same food market Eric works in, and she and Eric are quickly drawn to each other. But Eric knows he can't get involved with a policeman's sister. Meghan, who does not at first even realize he is a gangster, wants there to be more between them.
Noah and April also face obstacles. After they run into each other at a park, and meet again at Club Suave, neither can deny the attraction between them. But for Noah, involvement with April represents a professional conflict of interest, while for April, Noah symbolizes an even greater risk. April's history with men isn't a happy one, and she doesn't want that history to repeat itself.
An attempted assault on Meghan brings things to a head in several ways. Noah and April, Meghan and Eric all find themselves taking chances in their need to connect, to make their lives better, and to find love and acceptance. But as the stakes gets higher, will the clues about the killer come together before someone else dies?
The Edge of Night is plotted intricately and well, with each of the storylines impacting on the others. One of my favorite aspects of the book was its setting of Chula Vista, which is wedged between Tijuana and San Diego. The book has a strong sense of place, and I love that two of the four central characters are Mexican-American, because sadly, I don't often see Latino protagonists in this genre.
The suspense plot was well-executed. I did not guess the killer's identity until shortly before it was revealed, but the clues were there all along.
The main characters were all sympathetic to me. I liked that Noah was still in his mid-twenties, and wasn't superman. He had some of the impulsiveness and uncertainty of a young man. There were times when he felt afraid on his dangerous job, but he was also brave. My main criticisms where he is concerned is that unlike the other three, he didn't grow or change much over the course of the story, and we also didn't learn much in the way of new information about him.
I liked April even more because she had lived through more, and had made some bad choices she regretted. Her vulnerability and her struggle to support her daughter were so well-portrayed that I even understood why she would take drug money from Eric at the same time that she threw her mother out for using around her daughter. It took April a long time to begin to trust Noah, and I was very glad to see her get a happy ending.
Meghan began the story as a somewhat naÃ¯ve young woman, but she went through a lot and matured. I liked her but what I appreciated most was the way she represented hope and innocence (I don't mean sexual innocence, I mean innocence of crime and other sins) to Eric.
You may be able to infer from this that Eric was my favorite character in the book. At first I thought he was too good to be true for a gangster – the drug dealer with the heart of gold. But gradually, layer by layer, Eric's motives and history were revealed, and I came to understand him more and more and to want him to find freedom from his dangerous world. His tenderness with Meghan, his sense of responsibility for his family members, and his artistic graffiti, all showed a sensitive side that Eric had to hide to function in the gang. His last couple of scenes with Meghan brought tears to my eyes.
My biggest criticism of the book is this: Eric was such a special character that I felt he overshadowed the other three. I felt I'd been shown the way his past shaped him in a way I wish had been shown to the same degree with Noah, Meghan and even April.
[spoiler] Because of this, Eric was also the one for whom I most wanted a happy ending. The ending Eric got was not the one I wanted, but on further thought, I realized it was fitting. Eric had committed some serious crimes in the past and so a HEA was probably not the appropriate thing.
Still, because I liked him so much, I ended up feeling deprived by the epilogue. I did care about April and Noah but not as much as about Eric and Meghan, because I didn't feel they had come to understand each other as well.[/spoiler]
April and Noah were nice, appealing people who deserved to find happiness and I was glad for them, but I think I would have been happier if I had seen them open up to each other on an emotional level to the same degree Eric and Meghan did. Perhaps because a lot of April and Noah's thoughts about each other were based on physical attraction, their relationship seemed less deep to me.
On reflection, I wonder if part of the problem was that it is challenging to portray not one but two romantic relationships, and a suspense plot, with a lot of depth in less than four hundred pages.
Even so, I liked the suspense storyline and loved the flavor of the setting, the ethnicity of April and Eric, the realness of all four characters who were human and imperfect but nonetheless lovable. For all these reasons The Edge of Night gets a B from me.
This book is published by an Agency publisher meaning that the publisher sets the digital book price and there are no discounts.