In the dramatic prologue of Cold Ridge, Carine Winters is shot at in the New Hampshire woods, and then rescued by hometown hero Tyler North and his two buddies. Soon the two start dating and then get engaged, but shortly before the wedding, Tyler announces to Carine – without explanation – that he can’t go through with the marriage, leaving Carine devastated.
The first chapter is set nine months later. Carine no longer lives in her hometown of Cold Ridge, and moved to Boston where she makes her living as a freelance photographer. Though she is primarily a nature photographer, she is currently photographing a house restoration for Sterling and Jodie Harcourt, a wealthy couple who were also by Tyler and his friends the very same day they saved Carine.
One afternoon, Carine returns from her lunch break to find a security guard dead in the Harcourt house. She is terrified and as she bolts from the house, she runs into Manny Carrera, her ex-fiance’s close friend and one of her rescuers. From there, Carine is drawn into a web of lies and intrigue as it becomes clear that whoever killed the guard also has it in for her. Manny is under police suspicion and cannot help Carine, so Tyler North comes back into her life for her own protection.
Neggers’ story is action-packed and the murder/mystery plot is not patently obvious from the opening chapters. A number of characters – including Manny and the Harcourts – have something to hide. This is both a strength and a weakness; so much plot and backstory is crammed into the book that the perspective changes constantly. So many points of view eventually lead to confusion for the reader. Then too, the ending whizzes by as if the author realized she had a lot of loose ends to tie up without having many pages to do it.
That said, Carine and Tyler are interesting characters. Her job as a photographer feels real to the reader and it’s clear her job is important to her and the story. And Neggers obviously researched Air Force pararescuemen; Tyler’s background is fascinating and factual information about these brave men and their training is integrated into the story so that it never bogs down the narrative.
For the most part, the secondary characters were also strong. The Harcourts perhaps less so, but Carine’s Uncle Gus, Tyler’s friends, and their families were all interesting people who did more than simply serve as foils.
The weakest component of this romantic suspense novel was the romance. Little explanation for Tyler’s calling off the wedding is ever given. In addition, Carine, who is supposedly angry at Tyler and mourning him, jumps readily into bed with him again before she even gets his explanation for ending the engagement. As far as I could tell, Carine took Tyler back and did everything she did simply because they were “soulmates.” I would have appreciated greater discussion of the situation and more insight into why they made decisions regarding their relationship.
On balance, Cold Ridge is reasonably good romantic suspense novel. It’s fun, adventurous, and deciphering the mystery fairly challenging. Had the flow been better and the romantic aspects been more strongly deliniated, I’d recommend it all the more strongly. As it is, this romantic suspense novel earns a qualified recommendation.