Diana Palmer is one of those authors you either like, or you wonder what kind of Crack the people reading it took. I generally love Palmer’s writing and simply enjoy her books without overthinking them. Yes, there are some very repetitive elements in her books, including the older man, young virginal woman, jealousy, mixed signals, and many things you don’t expect in a contemporary setting, but for me they are fun, quick reads with oddly endearing characters. Before Sunrise features all of the above, but it had me sighing rather quickly, and not in a good way.
Phoebe Keller met Jeremiah Cortez right before she started her last year in college. Being an anthropology student, she wanted to bring him home and study him, but alas – he was much too old for her. They parted ways as she held out an offer to come to her graduation. The book begins at Phoebe’s graduation, which Cortez attends against his better instincts. Sparks fly! Spit is swapped! Petting is heavy! Car windows steam! He has personal problems! They decide to be pen pals!
Fast forward three years…Phoebe is now the curator of a small Native American museum in Chenocetah, North Carolina. Her master’s degree in anthropology is in hand, she is off men, and Cortez is nowhere in sight. A mysterious phone call informs Phoebe there are Neanderthal remains on a local construction site, but no one will tell because the construction must go on.
A body shows up on the Cherokee reservation nearby and the FBI sends out a special agent from their new Indian Country Crime Unit. You get three guesses as to who shows up and your first two don’t count. Phoebe is in danger because they think she was the last person to talk to the dead guy. Naturally she wants to stay at her isolated home out in the middle of nowhere.
Cortez gets protective, more people die, secrets are revealed, all sorts of nifty digging happens, but really I never got the glowy happy feeling I get from a Diana Palmer book. I don’t know enough about anthropology to fill a shot glass, so I have no clue if the research here is good or not but it worked enough to keep me happy. I’m not entirely sure what went wrong for me. Did the story suffer because its prequel, After Midnight, was so good that Before Sunrise couldn’t survive my expectations? Or perhaps because the wait between books was more than a decade? Both those are possible, and though I really looked forward to Phoebe and Cortez’s tale, instead I found myself distracted by the pushing of what seemed like moral or social messages.
Indians are still mistreated. Anthropology is very important. Phoebe is really smart, so don’t pay attention to her TSTL actions. Cortez is a good cop, so don’t pay attention to his TSTL actions, or that some of his comments that don’t at all suit his personality (can you imagine a strong silent male telling a woman he barely knows after nearly a year without seeing her that he had “personal problems?”). It’s almost as though the author was experimenting with her hero but didn’t know how far to go. On the other hand, I did enjoy that Cortez wasn’t a typical alpha Long, Tall Texan. Instead he is a mix of alpha with a strong touch of beta. He talks about feelings and his love for Phoebe is apparent early on. Even Phoebe knows, which makes the normal miscommunication when it happens harder to sell.
The bad guys are over the top, the sex gets steamy in a purple (and at one time icky) way and the “suspense” is all nice and wrapped up for you in the end. If you are already a Diana Palmer fan, the chance is probably 50/50 you will like Before Sunrise. If you have never read her or are looking to try her novels out, I wouldn’t suggest starting here. As for me, I want to see what she comes up with next…this one was close, but didn’t quite get there.