Do you like romances filled with secondary characters – so many that you forget who the hero and heroine are? If you do, then you might enjoy Carla Neggers’ Cold River. After awhile, I found myself laughing as each new character was thrown into the mix; it was either that or cry in frustration.
I should caution that this is the second in a series set in Black Falls, Vermont. The author’s Web site indicates that her books can be read as stand-alones. Maybe that’s because we’re treated to huge information dumps throughout the book about events that occurred previously. Apparently, an assassin-for-hire rampage occurred in the first book. The town is now filled with both unofficial and official investigators trying to discover who hired the assassins. This sounds more interesting than it actually is.
The hero and heroine had the potential to be interesting. In addition to running a cafe with two friends, Hannah Shay is also studying for the bar exam. She grew up in Black Falls, but was never part of the in crowd. When her parents died, she raised her two younger brothers. Hannah is prickly, and difficult to get to know. She has distanced herself from everyone in town, and, unfortunately, we’re distanced from her as well. The minute I’d begin to think I would find out more about her, the story would flip to one of the many secondary characters.
Sean Cameron, a millionaire fire fighter in California, comes from an influential Black Falls family. His father was murdered before the book begins, and Sean is in town to try to solve the crime. Sean seems to spend more time talking about Hannah to all of the various characters – whoever they were – than he did with Hannah. In fact, until the last few chapters, I didn’t sense any real romance between the two. Numerous characters told both Hannah and Sean how the other had been interested in them for years, but I just didn’t feel it.
I could excuse the lack of romance and even the excess of characters if the suspense was truly compelling, but it wasn’t. It simply felt meandering. There should have been a real sense of urgency, as the people who hired the assassins may actually be in the town, but I felt none. And then there are the huge disruptions in the action. Hannah would decide to go up a mountain alone for some reason. Then, the action would switch to everyone in town talking about how dangerous that is, before the action would go back to Hannah on the mountain. By that time, I’d completely forgotten why she was going up the mountain.
I read a lot of romantic suspense and I recognize that the romance often takes a back seat to the suspense. But in this case, the suspense was so weak for most of the book, that I couldn’t even figure out what was supposed to be suspenseful. Too much of the book seemed to be spent rehashing events that I’m assuming happened in the first book in the series. If you enjoyed the first book, you might like this one. For me, it just didn’t work.