Seconds to Live
I love a well-executed cop romance and Seconds to Live is one of the best I have read in a while. This third book in the author’s Scarlet Falls series deals with the final sibling in the Barrett family (youngest brother Mac), and his interest in local police officer turned detective Stella Dane.
Our story starts in the jungles of South America, where wildlife biologist Mac Barrett is studying giant river otters. When a new member of his team inadvertently shoots a photograph of local drug traffickers, they respond with predictable violence. Mac soon finds himself crossing the jungle with a gunshot wound in an attempt to make it to safety. His homecoming has him arriving just moments after his father has passed away. In pain of both the physical and emotional variety, Mac heads to his house only to see a dead body on the road. Swerving to avoid it leads to an unfortunate encounter with some trees and when Mac awakens, the body is gone.
Enter detective Stella Dane. She and Mac had met during the exciting events of Minutes to Kill and there had definitely been some attraction there but it hadn’t been the right time to act on it. This might not be the right time either. Stella is knee deep in a missing persons case when she gets the call about Mac’s body sighting, the physical description sounding a lot like her vanished housewife. As she works with Mac to determine just what he saw she finds herself drawn to him once more. But when the relationship becomes something far more than physical Stella can’t help but wonder what she is getting herself into. She has deep roots in Scarlet Falls, a new job she loves and a thousand other reasons to stay. Mac has always been a man on the go with a position that takes him to remote areas of the world. She may just be falling in love with the one man who can’t give her any kind of future.
Mac struggles with the whole issue of going and staying as well. His job has always brought with it the danger of running into unsavory sorts, as he did on this last trip, but that’s not his only problem. As a young man he had been involved with a violent local gang and if they knew some of the things he has been up to in recent years, they would kill him. His solution to the situation has always been to avoid being home, thereby making him a hard-to-pin-down target. But between the problems he encountered in South America, his family all moving back to Scarlet River (see Hour of Need and Minutes to Kill for details) and his growing feelings for Stella, he is starting to wonder if he shouldn’t rethink his strategy.
I really liked the way the author sets up the conflict in the romance. Stella and Mac don’t just gloss over the problems their two different lifestyles present but actually take the time to think things through. The ending might seem a bit convenient but given the set up in Minutes to Kill and the beginning of this novel it works. The characters are just at a point in their lives where changes are not simply possible but welcome.
I liked the characters not only as a couple but individually. Mac and Stella are both mature adults who are very ordinary. They make mistakes, pick themselves back up and move on. They know how to communicate, always a plus in a romance novel. They have a good network of family and friends, showing they can maintain relationships with other people. They’re strong individuals without being complete mavericks. In other words, they seem like very real people who fall in love and have a successful relationship.
If the book has a flaw it lies in the mystery; I figured out who the perpetrator was pretty quickly. I don’t think knowing this wrecks the whole book and the take-down is still interesting.
While Seconds to Live might not rock your world it will definitely be a good, entertaining read. I’m excited for the next book and look forward to seeing if my guess as to who the hero and heroine will be is correct.