I picked up Indigo Lake for review because I’ve read Jodi Thomas before and liked her work. Not so much that I follow her release schedule closely, but enough that when I saw she had something new coming out, I felt comfortable grabbing it without digging deeply into the synopsis. In other words, I went into the book blindly, with few expectations. It turned out rather well considering this, and while I don’t rank it among my favorite books of all-time, fans of Ms. Thomas’ will likely be pleased.
The novel is set in the small town of Crossroads, Texas and primarily follows the story of two different couples. Although I haven’t read anything else in the Ransom Canyon series, I was able to manage Indigo Lake just fine. There are hints as to what happened in previous books, but they clearly serve as backstory here and are not strictly necessary in order to understand what’s going on. The little bit of poking around I did into this series after reading this told me that the romance we see here between Lauren and Lucas began in Wild Horse Springs, so you might want to consider reading that first, though again, it’s not necessary.
The title refers to the small but important body of water which separates the Hamilton and Davis lands. For almost a century, the two families have been feuding, though the animosity has waned in recent decades as the Hamilton family has slowly disappeared from their ranch. As the book opens, Blade Hamilton, the last of the Hamiltons, has just discovered that the father he never knew left him this property. Intending only to see the place and dispose of it, Blade heads out to Texas, unaware of how much his life is about to change.
Upon arriving at his property, Blade gets his vintage Harley Davidson half stuck in Indigo Lake, and appeals to his neighbor, Dakota Davis, for help. Although she’s been raised on stories of how murderous the Hamiltons are, Dakota begrudgingly stops to assist, and thus begins their relationship. Over home cooked breakfasts and house closings (Dakota is the town’s only realtor) the two fall in love, until Blade is forced to take a hard look at his life and realize he’s not interested in simply moving on from Crossroads.
Blade’s time in Texas isn’t all sunshine and daisies, though. When the local sheriff realizes Blade is a professional arson investigator, he deputizes Blade and requests help with a case of arson and murder on a local ranch. This is how Blade first meets Lucas Reyes, a young lawyer and the self-proclaimed arsonist who allegedly started the barn fire which resulted in a ranch hand’s death. As Blade and the sheriff are questioning witnesses about the fire, Lucas strolls in and invites them to lock him up.
Lauren Brigman, the sheriff’s daughter, is none too happy with Lucas for parking himself in that jail cell. She was with him on the night of the fire, revisiting old history and hoping he might finally own up to his feelings for her, and she wants to give him an alibi, which he won’t let her do. Instead, all she ever hears from Lucas is “later,” both in terms of their relationship and his explanation for going to jail when he’s clearly innocent. These two have been dancing around each other for years, and Lauren is tired of it. By the time Lucas is out of jail and the murder is solved, Lauren has gotten through to Lucas that she’s done waiting around, and he’s allowed “later” to turn into “now.”
Overall, Indigo Lake maintains a nice balance between time spent on the relationships and time spent furthering the mystery plot. The attention on so many different people gives it a nice small-town feeling, but it does take away from the romantic elements a bit. If you’re looking for a book that’s big on passion, turn your sights elsewhere. It’s not that the romance in Indigo Lake is bad, just that it feels like two novellas were shoved together to make one full-size book, because the principal romance is not all that well developed.
I love a slow-burn romance, but that’s just not possible when Dakota and Blade are only getting 50% of the screen time, so to speak, and we have one book trying to cover two relationships. Rather than allowing their chemistry to build across pages and pages of interactions, Ms. Thomas forces it into what scenes Dakota and Blade do have together. It still works, but like I said, it’s not the grand passion you might find elsewhere. Lauren and Lucas fit better because their emotions have already had time to build, and it’s clear that by the time this book begins everything is about to spill over in the best way, whereas Dakota and Blade are building a relationship from square one.
As I said before, I have no doubt that established fans of Jodi Thomas will love Indigo Lake. It’s a well done story which keeps up the small-town aesthetic without making it cutesy and unrealistic, and it includes four very likeable main characters. I didn’t find a grand passion in it, but what I did find was more than enough to convince me to read more of Ms. Thomas’ work in the future.