Dawn in Eclipse Bay
The second novel in the Eclipse Bay trilogy is much the same as its predecessor: a comfort read, romance with a little lite – very lite, in this case – suspense thrown in. Not exactly taxing on the imagination, but enjoyable, nonetheless.
Set in Portland, Oregon, and in the nearby small town which gives the trilogy its name, Dawn In Eclipse Bay brings back familiar characters from the first book, such as the plumbing Willis twins, the eccentric, conspiracy-theory paranoiac Arizona Snow, and Rafe and Hannah, the couple featured in the first book in the series (Eclipse Bay). In addition, we are re-introduced to the not-quite-reconciled Madison and Harte clans, including Hannah’s sister Lillian and Rafe’s brother Gabe. The family feud between the passionate Madisons and the successful, businesslike Hartes is not quite banished, and old habits die hard.
This novel bears some strong resemblance to the Eclipse Bay, but there are enough interesting twists to make it not quite a repeat. For one thing, Gabe is no ordinary Madison. All business, he’s managed to break the family jinx at being financially unsuccessful while retaining the Madison tradition of being true to a single passion. For Gabe, that passion is Madison Commercial, the Portland business he built from the ground up, proving once and for all that the Madisons are not failures by nature. Things get a little shaky for him, however, when he signs up with Private Arrangements (which is not an escort service, no matter how much it may sound like one from the name), the matchmaking service run off computer input and human intuition by its owner, Lillian Harte. When the successful, but not-so-business-inclined Lillian fails to find a match for her single remaining client, she offers him a refund and closes down her business to follow her true vocation, painting. Gabe, however, is having none of it, and pursues Lillian back to Eclipse Bay, where the site of a Harte and a Madison walking down the street together is still enough to turn heads.
Both the romance and the mystery in this novel are a little on the skimpy side. Apparently the best way to jumpstart the romance between Gabe and Lillian is to throw the characters in bed together with relatively little chemistry-building beforehand. Likewise, the mystery/suspense aspect lacks punch, and Ms. Krentz does not quite play fair: she withholds the single detail that would allow the reader to solve the mystery until the heroine announces how she figured out who the culprit is. The suspense, which starts out well with a rather eerie scene in which Lillian begins to suspect someone has broken in her home, peters out quickly, turning the mystery into a sort of mechanical filler device. Still, the interesting – if one-dimensional – minor characters are enough to keep the reader’s attention when the book strays from the romance at hand. Kooky old Arizona Snow and the gossipy all-purpose Willis brothers make appearances, as well as new characters such as a sex-therapist with some rather kinky tastes, a disgraced politician’s ex-wife who decides she can fill the job better than her spouse ever could, and a band of over-the-top hippies calling themselves The Heralds of Future History, who make the best bakery items Eclipse Bay has ever tasted.
Even though the book suffers from neglect in a few key areas, Gabe and Lillian are a likable couple, and the interfering Harte and Madison elders are more endearing in this book than the last. Readers who enjoyed the first book will no doubt find themselves liking this one as well, and looking forward to the third. For those who have already noticed, there is one remaining Harte, and Gabe and Rafe have no other siblings, but Ms. Krentz drops some not-so-subtle hints as to the identity of the final heroine, and even though this book may not be all that it could have been, the intriguing set up for book three will have readers begging for more.
My final verdict on this book is that it is the perfect prescription for a rainy day read, when you don’t want to have to think too hard, and just want to enjoy two good people and two endearing families come together yet again.