I wonder, sometimes, why certain things are listed as romance. Take romantic suspense for example – there are many where the romance is a major factor in the story, and where, without that romance element, there would be no story. But then we have thrillers with a female lead, who happens to have a boyfriend, and those seem to get labelled automatically as romantic suspense. There is little or no romantic element, and the removal of what romance there is doesn’t destroy the story.
In Nowhere Safe the romantic element or the story is used purely to amp up the stress on our intrepid female detective. The relationship between September Rafferty and Jake Westerly develops over the course of the narrative, but it is used more as the background setting than actually part of the story. Jake’s story line in particular, while interesting, was just to emphasize the instability of another character, and to add to the emotional beating September is taking.
September, or “Nine” as her boyfriend Jake calls her, is a police detective for her hometown of Laurelton. She is recovering from an injury that kept her off the job for a while, and the case that brings her back involves family – her ex-stepbrother Stefan, to be precise. And though she is not allowed to work on that case (since they are technically family, of a sort), Stefan’s incident closely resembles that of another man, one that died from it. September has to juggle keeping a hand in on the new case, speaking with witnesses and grieving family members from her old case, and a rather intense bout of stomach flu. Things get even more feverish when Jake has to deal with his ex, they are trying to move in together, and September’s brother Auggie comes in with news of his own.
The mystery here was really interesting – we not only get our information from September, we also follow Stefan (whose issues unfold over the course of the novel), Lucky (who we find out early has issues), Mr. Blue (who I really want to know more about), and Jake. While Jake’s story line does not actually follow the main mystery, the effects of his actions definitely make a difference to the reader’s (and September’s) experience of the story. The downside is that this particular story was less than suspenseful. It read more like a thriller, since the reader knows who the police are looking for, and actually follow along in her footsteps for a while. The thriller here isn’t the murders, it’s the victims.
I just wished that the romance felt more like part of that thriller.
Jake and September (who I keep trying to call Stephanie each time I type it) have a believable relationship. High school friends, separated by September’s hesitancy towards relationships and Jake’s long-term girlfriend (who has major mental issues), they are finally together. And their relationship actually has movement, which is nice – and not a make-up, break-up sort of movement either. I’ve read far too many of those to be satisfied by that cycle anymore. Their relationship progresses like anyone else’s, and it’s both refreshing and endearing. I really like them as a couple. But the romance and the thrill were two different storylines, and it made the “romantic suspense” idea just a little less cohesive to me as a reader.
Now, that being said, I would definitely read more from this series and this author. The story itself read like a movie – it was easy to envision it as a full-fledged motion picture, and one I would definitely go see. And there are a lot of little subplots, little strings that get tied off at the end, that I didn’t expect. There were also some references that I didn’t get, but that is probably because I haven’t read all of this series. Though it does stand well alone, it probably is better with more of a background in the author’s world.