Falling Hard and Fast
Falling Hard and Fast had all the elements of great romantic intrigue: a wonderful backdrop in the mossy South, a thrilling mystery with all the sordid, intriguing details, a terrific hero and compelling supporting characters. But two things prevent this book from living up to its promise – a lackluster heroine and an overstuffed story that exists simply to hide the lack of chemistry between the two leads.
Janice Weber was brutally murdered, sexually assaulted and dumped in the swamps. Cage Guthrie, local sheriff and ex big city cop, isn’t happy to see this brand of crime hit his small town. He thought he had left it behind long ago and it brings back powerful, painful memories of an earlier case. The last thing he needs is a nosy out-of-town true crime novelist asking questions, but there she is, in the form of Zoey Drake. Not wanting any sort of interference in his work, he orders Zoey to stay off the case. That is where the problems in this novel begins, because that is exactly what Zoey does.
In fact, after her initial interest in the case, she ceased to show any desire in solving the murder. Since the case was why she came to town, suddenly dropping it with no real reason made no sense and served to show the heroine as weak. In several scenes, Zoey is shown to be working on her book about the case. But since she isn’t involved in the case, what is there to write about? She and Cage rarely discuss it. This could’ve been great conflict between the leads, but instead there is little conflict at all. Zoey simply serves as Cage’s love interest. And an undeserving one at that. Because Cage Guthire is a great character.
Complex and intriguing, Cage is a man haunted by the demons of his past, which dog him during this case. But, he’s not overburdened by them, nor do they affect his life so badly that they grind it to a halt as it might in lesser heroes. But it isn’t Cage’s stellar performance as a cop that makes him a great hero, it’s the little things such as his warm relationship with a childhood buddy, his attempts to help a battered woman get her life together and his kindness to a troubled Vietnam vet that shows his true heroism. Yet, given his blatant sexism and quick temper, he’s far from perfect. This man is a fully fleshed out character and the best thing about the book.
The mystery too, is great. The author spends time introducing and setting up viable suspects and even drops a few clues for the reader to pick up on. The author has clearly done her work on police procedure and projects it to the reader in compelling fashion. And when the villain is revealed, the reader will be surprised. It truly is the character you least suspect.
Unfortunately, this is a romance and the story between Cage and Zoey is so weak that the writer throws in several subplots and a huge supporting cast to pick up the slack. Most of these plots and characters are very interesting, although there was one subplot that was tacked on at the end which seemed rather pointess. It came out of left field and had this reviewer scratching his head in confusion. For the most part, though, everything other than the romance was far more interesting than what should have been the primary focus.
At the end, as if to remind us that the book was indeed a romance, the author creates a conflict between the hero and heroine that forces Cage to act in ways that seemed out of line with his character. As if to make things worse, that conflict remains unresolved. After presenting it, the book involved itself with solving the mystery and the hero and heroine never deal with their issues. They just get their HEA, leaving the reader with the feeling that something is missing.
It’s too bad that the author couldn’t create a great, or even good love story all with everything else in this book because it couldn’t have been a whopper of a novel. As it is, it’s just disappointing.