REVIEW: Blood Kin (Tawes Island Book 1) by Judith E French
Dear Ms French,
Having read and enjoyed several of your previous historical novels, I was keen to see how you’d handle contemporary romantic suspense. Would there be a good balance of romance and suspense? Could I figure out who dunnit by the end without it being too easy? And would it hold my interest since this subgenre isn’t usually the first one I reach for in a bookstore?
I like the heroine Bailey Elliott. She’s nice without being syrupy sweet and as the outsider in the book she acts as the means for you to tell us all about Tawes Island. A remote and secluded place, Tawes has been inhabited by the same families for generations which means everyone’s kin to just about everyone else. And not much goes on here that most people don’t know about in 30 minutes. Which makes it more amazing that Bailey’s young teenaged mother managed to hide who the father of her illegitimate baby was. Because of the dark and murky events which followed Bailey’s birth and her mother’s death in childbirth, you conveniently remove her from the island for decades via adoption then bring her back when the time is right. When I reached the end of the book, what amazed me was that almost everyone Bailey meets is somehow involved in what happened and that they all kept their mouths shut for so long.
I felt the warnings to Bailey about leaving and not stirring things up after so many years and that “evil lurks in the heart of darkness” start way too soon. Nothing has happened and yet everyone, and I mean everyone, is telling Bailey to leave town now! It’s too dangerous for you! Go before something happens to you! Even Daniel, our hero with his own angsty and dark past, who knows nothing about what happened or is going to happen or who was involved, tells her to leave. Too premature. This is before the whistling outside in the dark, before things begin to unravel, before anything begins to happen at all. But then later, after Bailey is so frightened that she barricades herself into Emma’s house, Daniel basically poo-poos her fears and says there’s nothing to be afraid of. WTF?
Tawes prides itself on its crusty, eccentric people and it sure is full of them. Emma — now there’s an interesting character though I’d love to try some of her yummy sounding cooking, Matthew — the wishy washy minister (why are most romance ministers weak people?), his frankly weird wife Grace, scary Uncle Will who totes a shotgun at all times and the town drunk Cap’n Creed Somers. Islanders do look after their own and after seeing how they do that, I don’t think I’d want to live here. Way too much inbreeding here.
I’m conflicted about the few sequences written from 1st person POV of villain – I’ve seen this in many other Rom. Susp books and am still not sure that I like it. It does save the clunky villain “spill all” at the end of the book to explain what motivated the him — on the other hand, doing scenes this way is jarring, especially when it’s not done for the first time until halfway through the book. Though I can see if you’re going to do this, you have to wait a while until enough characters with a motive to commit the deed have been introduced.
Why is Will such a bastard to Bailey — seems like he’d want to meet with her, tell her what she wants to know then get her the hell off the island — but by making everything so mysterious and hush-hush, people spark Bailey’s interest and curiosity. Heck I’d want to know why every single person in town is telling me to leave from the minute I got there. And then there’s the fact that at first every person Bailey meets ignores her and watches her with suspicion then suddenly they’re ready to have a crab cake throw down. What was the problem with the will/inheritence? Was there really a problem or was the lawyer stalling for some reason? It doesn’t make me want to have this guy writing out my will.
The book has a nicely done atmosphere though. I got a real feel for the island and the people who live/d there. Not a warm and cuddlely feeling but a deep one nonetheless. The first death gave me the clue that the subsequent ones would be equally as gruesome and by the end, I wondered who would still be alive by the end. Daniel’s murky CIA past catches up to him in ways that make me hope our real government isn’t quite this slimy. I thought the check and balance that it shut Daniel’s mouth with was a neat turn. The suspense at the end was good though the villian turned into some kind of terminator character who wouldn’t die.
I like that the secret behind all the goings on at Tawes island turns out to be a doozy and that a fair number of candidates for the villain role are viably presented. I’ve already bought the second book in the series so obviously this one worked at a lot of levels. There are some nitpicks I had but overall, I’d give it a B-
Blood Kin can be purchased in mass market format.