Desperate Acts
Grade : A

Alexandra Ivy is a long-running favorite of mine, and I continue to enjoy her Pike, Wisconsin series. The fourth installment, Desperate Acts, heralds another successful romantic suspense for this genre fanatic.

This is a whodunit that unravels over decades. It opens with teenage Lia Porter sneaking off to a party she shouldn’t have been at. On the one hand, it’s what all teenagers are prone to do. On the other, to cover the lie of being somewhere she wasn’t supposed to be, she had to keep her mouth shut about a terrified woman running through the woods and jumping off a bridge. At the time it didn’t seem like such a big deal… but sixteen years later, when a skeleton is unearthed and Lia recognizes the jacket and badge from a photo of the victim, it’s clear she should’ve spoken up.

Lia’s ties to the small community stretch back six generations, centering on the grocery store her great-great-great-grandfather had started. She kept it open for nostalgia, relying on the portfolio she’d built out of a trust fund she’d inherited at twenty-one. Nowadays, she’s dependable, invests in worthy causes and businesses in town and always shows up for community events even when nobody else is interested. But she’s held the dark secret of that fateful night close to her chest, until she can’t. And despite Lia’s dependability, it’s hard to get the temporary sheriff to listen to her.

Kaden Vaughn never looked back after leaving Pike, Wisconsin on graduating from high school, and has spent over a decade as a stunt driver and reality television adrenaline junkie. When his brother Darren died five years earlier, Kaden’s focus shifted away from the spotlight and to a niche custom-built motorcycle shop in Las Vegas. It was less taxing on his body and gave him peace of mind to move out of the limelight. But when he gets a text from his cousin about a news story and with a fuzzy photo of an Environmental Protection Agency badge, he knows it has something to do with Darren. Sixteen years earlier, Darren’s fiancé, Vanna Zimmerman, went missing and the local authorities in Pike assumed he’d killed her and hidden the body. Darren died with no closure and a healthy dose of suspicion over his head. To honor Darren, Kaden decides he’ll get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding Vanna’s death, because there’s no way the newly-discovered remains are of anybody but Vanna.

Desperate Acts is more suspenseful police procedural than romance, but there’s enough chemistry between Lia and Vaughn to keep it spicy. They’re a well-matched duo, working in parallel to the official police investigation that keeps getting botched - the mayor is acting as temporary sheriff while sheriff Zac Evans (from Unstable) is on his honeymoon. Both Lia and Vaughn are logical and methodical in their sifting through information they’re able to gather. It’s like if you and I applied all the practical information we’ve gleaned through years of reading mysteries and watching Law & Order, and out-investigated Barney Fife.

Ivy is a great storyteller, and this is a great story. There’s a lot going on in the book, with a scattershot of details that pack every sentence with vital information - yet it’s still easy to follow the action. I so appreciate the fact that recurring characters in this series are peppered in for reference rather than swooping in to save the day. So if you’re a fan of police procedurals, suspenseful romances, and a little vindication, grab a copy of Desperate Acts.

Reviewed by Dolly Sickles
Grade : A

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : March 10, 2023

Publication Date: 03/2023

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