A phrase I often hear bandied about in conjunction with Jayne Ann Krentz (in all her guises) is “comfort read.” It couldn’t be more true in this case, with “lite” suspense and an interesting, albeit familiar, storyline.
Eclipse Bay has its own version of the Montagues and the Capulets, but thankfully these feuding families now simply ignore each other, when they’re not talking derisively about their counterparts. The new generation, Hannah Harte and Rafe Madison, can never forget they are polar opposites – or so they’re told. One night, as Hannah fends off unwanted suitor Perry Decatur, Rafe steps in to help her, having been thrown out of his own date’s car, but for slightly different reasons. Alone after midnight, Rafe walks Hannah home and listens to her very orderly and calculated set of plans for the future, a future that could never include someone like himself, who can barely aspire to do more than stay out of jail.
When Rafe’s date, Kaitlin, is murdered that night, everyone assumes he was the killer, except he has Hannah as an alibi. Hannah shocks everyone (Rafe included) when she does admit to having been with Rafe, and her reputation is forever tainted, although nothing really happened. Life takes Hannah and Rafe on different roads, until the day Hannah’s aunt’s will is read and they find out they have inherited, one half each, the mansion known as Dreamscape. Neither is willing to sell their half to the other, and the attraction of eight years ago comes back, full force, along with the mystery of who was Kaitlin’s killer.
As Eclipse Bay swarms with new rumors about successful wedding organizer Hannah and mystery-occupation-but-boy-can-he-cook Rafe, the pair settles into an uneasy detente. It seems that just about every secondary character in the book figures that Hannah and Rafe will end up together, and even with the issue of Dreamscape unresolved, the pair gives in to their attraction. Kaitlin’s killer is still around, however, and as layers of truth are slowly revealed, Hannah and her dog, Winston, could be in danger.
Hannah Harte goes from being ultra-organized about her life goals – but yet still somewhat of a dreamer in the opening of the book – to a woman I found difficult to warm to. She has grown cynical, distant, someone who responds to a simple dinner invitation by saying,
Seeing as how there isn’t much that’s very exciting in the other sack of groceries, I believe I can speak for both Winston and myself when I say that we’d be pleased to take you up on that offer.
I understand she’s trying to keep her distance, but she comes across as stiff and pompous and she really isn’t. She’s been hurt before and is wary of the Madison men’s reputation, but her attraction to Rafe is undeniable.
Rafe, who wants to open an inn and restaurant at Dreamscape, has never forgotten the goody two-shoes whom he so chastely kissed that fateful night. Although he had an unsuccessful marriage, he is neither the Hero Who Will Never Love Again nor some overbearing alpha male, and he patiently waits through Hannah’s post-lovemaking panic attack and her fears to win her heart.
Although I did enjoy reading Eclipse Bay for the most part, I didn’t find much that set it apart from other books, even other JAK books. Do you want a h/h who come back to their hometown years later and try to solve a mystery, a la Eye of the Beholder? You have it here. Do you want a h/h who have to work together and start off distrusting each other, as in Flash? Got it. Do you want a dog who is a main character, like in Family Man? Yep, got that, too. And just like in Sharp Edges, there are a lot of details about gourmet cooking. And I understand the family feud background, but the continued references about someone being “a Harte” or “a Madison” became tiresome after twenty or thirty times. But if you like JAK’s style of writing, then Eclipse Bay will most likely be another notch on your JAK belt.