>> Wednesday, March 19, 2014
It's been thirteen years since Lucy Sheridan was in Summer River. The last time she visited her aunt Sara there, as a teenager, she'd been sent home suddenly after being dragged out of a wild party-by the guy she had a crush on, just to make it more embarrassing. Obviously Mason Fletcher-only a few years older but somehow a lot more of a grown-up-was the overprotective type who thought he had to come to her rescue.
Now, returning after her aunt's fatal car accident, Lucy is learning there was more to the story than she realized at the time. Mason had saved her from a very nasty crime that night-and soon afterward, Tristan, the cold-blooded rich kid who'd targeted her, disappeared mysteriously, his body never found.
A lot has changed in thirteen years. Lucy now works for a private investigation firm as a forensic genealogist, while Mason has quit the police force to run a successful security firm with his brother-though he still knows his way around a wrench when he fills in at his uncle's local hardware store. Even Summer River has changed, from a sleepy farm town into a trendy upscale spot in California's wine country. But Mason is still a protector at heart, a serious (and seriously attractive) man. And when he and Lucy make a shocking discovery inside Sara's house, and some of Tristan's old friends start acting suspicious, Mason's quietly fierce instincts kick into gear. He saved Lucy once, and he'll save her again. But this time, she insists on playing a role in her own rescue...
As a teenager, Lucy Sheridan had a very close escape. Visiting her aunt in the small California town of Summer River during her holidays, she was (she felt) lucky enough to be invited to a party thrown by the popular kids. When Mason Fletcher, the somewhat older boy she'd been crushing on for weeks, turned up and announced he was taking her back home to her aunt, Lucy felt humiliated. What she didn't know was that the ringleader of the popular kids had been planning to drug her and rape her. Mason, having heard about what was going to go down, was taking matters into his own hands. A few days later, the would-be rapist disappeared and after a while, was declared dead. Mason, who'd had a bit of a conversation with him after his rescue of Lucy, had some attention by the police, but he had an alibi, so nothing came from that.
Thirteen years later, Lucy is back in Summer River. She hasn't been back since that summer all those years earlier, but her aunt and her partner have recently died in an accident, and Lucy has inherited from them. She has their house to sort out, but also, surprisingly, she's been left shares in a local company owned by the town's preeminent family. Everyone keeps advising her to sell the family back those shares, as she seems to have stumbled into a battle for control of the company.
Lucy, however, is not quite ready to sell and get out of town. She suspects that the accident that killed her aunt and her partner wasn't an accident, and that it might have something to do with those shares. Lucy is determined to investigate, and it soon becomes clear that she might be right about the accident not being one. Furthermore, it looks like there might also be a connection with the would-be rapist, who, it turns out, might actually have been a serial rapist the police had been looking for.
Lucy had planned to do her investigating on her own, but Mason is back in town as well, and she's finding him hard to shake off. He's determined to be helpful to her, and supposedly businesslike appointments with him have a way of turning into dates.
This is the first JAK book in years that isn't part of her paranormal Arcane Society series. I've been quite vocal about my opinion that all this Arcane Society stuff hasn't been good at all. From the start, the paranormal elements have been half-baked and remarkably tedious (surprisingly, because her Jayne Castle books, which have a sort of paranormal element to them, have always been great). So as you might imagine, I was ecstatic to hear JAK was ditching that element. I was hoping to a return to the sort of books she was writing in the 90s.
Did I get that? In part, I did. There were bits here that reminded me of older JAKs. For instance, the way Lucy's forced by circumstances into the midst of a family dispute, one based on issues around the family business but born from family relationships, reminded me of books like The Golden Chance. That was really enjoyable, as was all the small town stuff. The balance between the mystery and the romance was also better than it's been for a while, with quite a bit of emphasis on the relationship between Lucy and Mason. It was a nice romance, too.
What didn't quite work as well was the nature of the mystery element. It felt like it didn't go well with the tone of the book, which was mainly nice and pleasant. The crimes here were much too traumatic and there were too many of them. Some of them were also very close to Lucy (her beloved aunt, for instance) and yet she didn't seem to be grieving, particularly. I also couldn't quite wrap my mind around the timing of the serial rapist thing. 13 years ago it was 2001. The things that the rapist did at the time (namely, filming his rapes and putting them online) felt a bit too modern. I mean, YouTube was only founded in 2005. Also, no one seemed particularly fussed about it all, not at the time and not even in the present day. That element just didn't gel at all.
At least, given the balance between romance and mystery, it wasn't enough to put a dent in my enjoyment of all the other stuff.
MY GRADE: A B. I fully admit I might be being a bit overenthusiastic here. Objectively, maybe it wasn't that great. I guess I'm just so happy that JAK's books seem to be moving in the right direction that I've temporarily suspended judgement.