Desert Isle Keeper
Jill Marie Landis’ first contemporary novel is awesome. Her publisher is marketing the book as women’s fiction, but the story of Carly Nolan and Jake Montgomery is a great romance.
The back-story for Lover’s Lane is this: Carly Nolan has spent much of her life on the run. After running away from her last foster home as a teen, she was taken in by a retiree who nurtured her broken spirit and taught her to paint. Then she met rich playboy Rick Saunders, spent an idyllic month with him and fell in love before he went to Japan. When he returns and discovers that Carly had his son, Christopher, he proposes. Unfortunately, after he tells his parents about his son and new fiancée, he is killed en route back to them. His parents, devastated by the loss of their beloved son, try to buy their grandson, and when this fails, threaten legal action. Carly runs with her son, never to be heard from again.
Private investigator Jake Montgomery has been looking for Carly in the six years since his childhood friend Rick Saunders died. He believes his friend’s parents description of Carly as a white-trash gold-digger. During that time period his marriage failed and he started his own company after leaving the P.I. firm originally hired by the Saunders’ to find Carly. The million dollar reward could put his fledgling business in the black for years and make the company’s reputation. After all, she eluded his former employer for six long years.
Carly is not at all what he expected, and Jake’s plans go awry the minute he sees her. Their instant chemistry has him reevaluating his entire scheme. So instead of turning her in, he rents a fixer-upper for the summer and tries to get to know Carly. At first she resists because she has too much at stake to risk a chance at love. But after much soul searching she decides to take the leap into a relationship.
Both Jake and Carly have to overcome their own issues before they can truly form a lasting relationship. Jake doesn’t want to fall in love again after his first wife’s betrayal and feels guilty for falling in love with his best friend’s woman. After a lifetime of mistreatment by authority figures, Carly must learn to trust someone. Just as she does, the truth about Jake’s job is revealed.
It may be that only in romance-land and soap opera-dom that wealthy grandparents do this kind of thing, but some of the best books take the tried-and-true and make them seem fresh. Landis handles this premise brilliantly, and provides unexpected plot turns that keeps the pages turning. I loved so many aspects of Lover’s Lane that it’s hard to describe them without providing spoilers. What I can say is this: the author writes believable characters and imbues them with such humanity that the reader feels every emotion right along with them.
While perhaps the initial premise isn’t all that realistic, people without money can easily be threatened by those swimming in it, which makes Carly’s reaction seem very real. But it’s not just Carly and Jake who come alive, the secondary characters are three-dimensional as well. That goes not only for little Chris, whom I wanted to hug over and over while reading the book, but also for the very people threatening Carly. Those who are tired of overdone villains who behave in maniacal fashion will appreciate Landis’ deft touch.
Jill Marie Landis, who has written only historical romance since 1988, makes a big splash with her first contemporary romance. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next, but for now am happy to savor Lover’s Lane and add it to my keeper shelf.