REVIEW: Not Without Her Family by Beth Andrews
Dear Ms. Andrews:
I’m participating in Keishon’s TBR challenge. Last year I signed up and did all of one challenge read. This year, I was determined to be more consistent. It helps that two of other compadres of mine here at Dear Author are participating as well. While technically not in my TBR pile, this Not Without Her Family fulfilled two requirements. It was given a DIK review at AAR and it was available in ebook form. Rike gave it a straight A grade.
Kelsey Reagan has come to Serenity Springs to try to forge a relationship with her half brother, Dillon, who went to prison for killing their stepfather over 10 years ago. Dillon served five years in a federal prison and then took off, leaving virtually no trial behind. Kelsey was able to track Dillon down, though, in a small town in New York. (It’s never mentioned how an unemployed waitress was able to track anyone down, particularly an ex-con who didn’t want to be found).
Dillon is working as a carpenter/handyman around Serenity Springs. His current job is helping to renovate an old bar recently purchased by Allie Martin, sister of the local Chief of Police, Jack Martin. Jack is less than thrilled with Allie’s choices, of her leaving her job as a high powered lawyer in NY, of buying the run down bar, and of hiring an ex con whose crime was murder. Jack becomes even more concerned for Allie when he spies Kelsey entering Allie’s bar during its off hours. Despite the fact that Jack initially believes that Kelsey is stealing money and despite Kelsey’s innate distrust for law enforcement, the two are immediately thinking of how hot the other one is. This attraction is complicated by the fact that a prominent member of the community is killed and Dillon becomes the prime suspect.
Their “mental lusting” wasn’t intrusive because it was present, but because it was present at such awkward moments. Jack is lusting after someone he thinks is about to steal or has stolen from his sister. Kelsey is turned on by some “Sheriff” (as she calls him) despite being wrongfully accused AND despite her very negative past experiences with law enforcement that led to the wrongful imprisonment of her brother.
This book is readable and the characters are likeable, yet there wasn’t much beneath the surface that would sustain me for another read. Kelsey didn’t show any character development. She had run away from New York City because things were getting tough at her waitressing job. She was determined to stay in Serenity Springs but how much of that was really due to wanting to get to know Dillon and reconnecting with him and how much of it was her feelings for Jack is indecipherable. I wanted to see Kesley make proactive choices for herself, but I felt like she was more of a reactor to her environment. She seemed to continue the same bad habits that she was running away from in New York and this time was different only because her partner, Jack, wasn’t an asshole.
I found her character to be internally inconsistent. Had she learned from her past impulsive ways as she asserted to her brother Dillon because all her actions with Jack lacked any real thought. I did appreciate that she was uncomfortable around Jack’s daughter.
Jack was similarly a flat character. He had lost his wife four years ago but wasn’t pining her loss even though he loved her. He had a daughter and while he struggled with parenting from time to time, it was clear he was a good dad. He was good at his job, generally well liked. There was no conflict in him, even when there should have been.
Jack and Kesley become intimately involved despite Dillon being the number one suspect in Jack’s murder investigation. This should have been enough to at least keep the two out of bed with one another. Jack didn’t even try to keep his job separate from his relationship with Kelsey, often telling her his intentions of arresting or not arresting Dillon.
Finally, the small town setting was underutilized. We knew that Kelsey was mistreated by the townspeople, but only because we are told so. We aren’t allowed to see any of the interaction Kelsey has with people in town other than Jack, his daughter, and Allie. In fact, I think that the problem with much of the book was the telling versus showing. What we are allowed to see is Kelsey and Jack’s attraction to each other, the physical consummation of their attraction and Jack’s pursuit of the murderer. We are told about Dillon and Kelsey’s ostracization and the trouble Jack might be in for not arresting Dillon, Kelsey’s hatred for law enforcement, Jack’s worry about being involved with someone lacking trustworthiness, but it’s never shown to us. When I looked through my notes of the book, I had alot of awkward references because there were emotional scenes placed in the story where I hadn’t been adequately prepared through plot development.
I did like the police procedure part of the story. I thought that was interesting because I actually saw Jack doing something. The whodunit part, though, was fairly obvious early on. I’d be interested in reading Dillon’s story but this wasn’t a keeper for me. C