Myth and Magic
I admit to being easily swayed by a pretty cover even as I know the truth of the old adage “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Yet the gothic vibe of the cover of this book sucked me in. Fortunately, I was not disappointed. I found a unique romantic suspense inside.
Stone Willow Lodge is an idyllic corporate retreat owned by Breckwood Industries and managed by Veronica Kent. Recent bizarre incidents at the lodge, including a mutilated dog carcass and ghost sightings, have garnered the resort some bad press. Veronica is at her wits’ end trying to figure out what is going on and how to stop it.
With increased attention on the lodge dissuading customers from booking rooms, the Breckwood family hires their prodigal son Caithelden Lairen, a private investigator, to intervene. Caith has been away for several years due to a painful incident in his childhood, making his return to his hometown somewhat reluctant. He has a complicated relationship with his family and a romantic history with the lodge’s manager. Upon seeing Veronica again after several years, old feelings resurface.
The creepy old inn with a violent history is a great setting for intrigue. It casts a dark shadow over the story even when eerie events, such as the severed hand in the fireplace, are not occurring. This deepens the sense of foreboding that builds as more is revealed about Breckwood Industries and about Caith’s history with his family and the men who abducted him as a small boy.
Caith comes in with a chip on his shoulder, having been estranged from his family for a number of years. He’s a little snarly and moody, but it’s obvious from the beginning that he is trying to be a good father to his son while dealing with his feelings for Veronica. For her part, Veronica doesn’t let him get away with his moodiness without calling him on it. They bicker with one another, but not to the point of being annoying.
This only became a problem for me toward the end of the book when Veronica picks a fight with Caith regarding his investigation of one of her employees at the inn. He was merely conducting the job he was hired to do, which she should have realized. While I could forgive her for the emotional reaction to learning this, I had a much harder time forgiving Caith for breaking into a guest’s room to look for evidence. As a former cop, he should know better than to do that and should have known that any evidence gathered this way would be inadmissible in court should charges be brought.
All in all, though, I enjoyed this story that is part suspense, romance, and family drama, particularly Caith’s journey to reconcile with his father and brothers. The slow revelation of his secrets and the dynamics of their family would have held my interest even if the lodge mystery and romance had not. The combination of mystery, characters, and romance kept me turning the pages and proved to be a satisfying read.