Elizabeth Lowell has written some memorable romances. To the Ends of the Earth and Tell Me No Lies have permanent places on my keeper shelf. Her lush, erotic love scenes bordered on the purple and sometimes tipped over, but she never resorted to clichéd or repeated characters. Her heroes were always alpha to the max. I want more of those, please. Unfortunately, this book fell a little short of my ideal. I know Lowell is trying to write a different kind of book these days, so perhaps this new turn just isn’t to my taste.
What I got in this book is a competent thriller with a romance as a sideline. Enjoyable, well written but without the passion of her earlier work. I think that’s my main problem. The plot I could read about elsewhere, in many places, and it isn’t anything special. What I can’t get is the voice. While Lowell still has that, it seems strangely muted. I want full-throttle Lowell, not a reasonably written thriller.
So, to the story.
The hero, an LA cop, arrives at the home of his newly deceased uncle, a small rancher in Nevada. He’s the heir to the ranch and he doesn’t intend to stay. He’ll sell. That night he has a visitor, a neighbor who has been trying to persuade the old man to sign the ranch over to the local conservancy group. The old boy did so, but just before he died he changed his mind and decided to leave it to his nephew.
With his trained cop’s eye, Tanner has noticed some unusual things about his uncle’s death, like the old man wasn’t wearing his ranch boots, even though he was found outside. But the death has been ruled a natural one, a heart attack.
When Tanner and Shaye visit the lawyer, they discover that although the old man hadn’t signed his will, he’d sent a note to his lawyer declaring his intent to do so, which would leave Tanner the heir, but someone wants that ranch badly. Considering who the people are who want the ranch, I wasn’t sure why they wouldn’t just pay Tanner the going price, since their intent would have added considerably to the value.
Slowly, Shaye and Tanner unravel the events of the night the old man died, and in so doing, they uncover a bigger plot. It’s not a complete surprise, but I don’t think that’s the point. It’s how Tanner can bring the perpetrators to justice, since they’re clever enough not to leave evidence.
While I enjoyed the details and feel that I was in the hands of a master (mistress?) , I never felt fully engaged with the plot or the characters. The descriptions of the landscape and the towns, the situations are all interesting enough, but I was never compelled to sit up all night to finish it. The affair between Shaye and Tanner is passionate, but the reason for them to remain apart never really catches hold with me. To be fair, that aspect doesn’t spoil my enjoyment much, just the occasional irritation when they reiterated, yet again, why what they had wouldn’t last. Because it is obvious it would.
The book was enjoyable enough for me to finish it, but I’d be hard pressed to call it a romance. The emphasis is on the thriller, but in this respect the story is predictable and a bit convoluted, sometimes for its own sake, it seems. The villains are disappointingly one dimensional, with a villainess worthy of the most hackneyed Harlequin. I did, however, enjoy the realistic view of cops and their work, and the ways shortcuts and budget deficits affect people carrying out their jobs. Tanner is suitably and realistically jaded.
In the past I don’t care about those elements as long as the central love story carried me away. But without that, the book is only competent. Well written, of course. Ms. Lowell’s an old hand and knows how to write, and for this, considering recent reads, I’m thankful.
Read Veena’s review here.
Murder and mystery spark unexpected romance in this captivating new tale from the beloved New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Lowell
On the surface Shaye Townsend has little in common with Tanner. He’s a hard-edged big city cop come home to the historic Davis family ranch to settle his uncle’s estate. She’s working for an environmental conservancy that acquires and protects old ranches—and she wants to preserve the Davis homestead.
When the suspicious death of Tanner’s uncle at his ranch throws the two opposites together, tempers flare and sparks fly. While they have trouble seeing eye to eye, Shaye and Tanner agree on one thing: They need to uncover the truth.
Combining their unique skills—Shaye’s low-key approach and local connections and Tanner’s experience as a homicide detective—the unlikely pair share long nights in the pursuit of justice. Before they know it, the friction they generate turns to heat, igniting a love neither ever expected to find.
They believe passion this intense cannot last. But when Shaye becomes a killer’s target, Tanner realizes he’d give up anything to protect her—including his life.
Read an excerpt.