One Little Spark
Grade : A

It’s not a very well-kept secret.  It’s right there on the back cover.  Ellie Banks is Maisey Yates.  If you’ve read Yates then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Banks’s smoldering debut domestic thriller, One Little Spark.  If you haven’t, you’re still in for a rollicking good read.

Banks successfully borrows from those romantic tropes to rustle up a tantalizing entertainment set in the beautiful idyllic little town of Tenmile, Oregon, near Roseburg.

The rural burg doesn’t carry that promotional banner long.  It becomes a place where nothing ever happens until the whole place burned to the ground.  Four indomitable women’s intertwined lives are forever changed when long buried seething emotions surface after a destructive conflagration of desire, passion, guilt and murder.

Three of the women have known each other, been friends, fallen out of friendship, reestablished tenuous relationships since high school twenty-seven years ago.  Now in their forties, they are pillars of the community.  The fourth, just past nineteen, has roots in the small town by virtue of her grandmother and a scandalous affair that unites her with one of the other women.

Town council member Jenna Abbott is the driving force behind the core narrative.  Enthusiastic, organized, controlling she wasn’t able to corral her philandering ex-husband, Ryan.  She funnels hostile energies into small town politics and her shop, Hidden Gems.  She was also responsible for establishing the Emergency Alert System that failed when the town caught fire.  The predominant question becomes:  what did Jenna know and when did she know it?

Then there’s her close friend, Alex, herself an entrepreneur who owns Tenmile Treats that serves amazing baked goods, and lovely coffee drinks and the kind of sanity that Jenna was happy to throw money at any day of the week. They often meet for confabs, wondering about what’s happened to their respective missing husbands, and gossiping about handsome buck Cody White.

Cody’s ties also go back to high school days.  Alex had designs on him then and he is now even more beautiful.  He returns home as an FBI fire investigator looking into the suspicious blaze that destroyed twenty-six hundred homes, thirty businesses, leaving several residents missing.

Alex is drawn to him again in the best Harlequin fashion.  When his eyes squinted [it] made her want to crawl into the giant mixing bowl in the back and turn on the whisk.

But Alex also has other demons to contend with.  She has little memory of the day of the fire yet has frequent buzzed out flashback episodes with spiraling PTSD visions of holding a book of matches and waking up in the hospital after being found wandering down Dark Hollow Road suffering from mysterious second and third degree burns on her hands and arms.

The scars are more than skin deep. She questions her involvement with the disaster.  How long can she keep these secrets from Cody at the same time that she is attracted to him?  Could any of this have to do with her missing physician husband, Paul?  After all, Paul, Cody, and Ryan often engaged in adolescent pranks, stupid kids doing stupid things.

Chelsea Goddard completes the trio of supportive friends.  Family drama complicates matters because Jenna’s ex, Ryan, is her brother.  The trust in her nineteen-year marriage to Mark is threatened when he discloses a nefarious juvenile record (possession, robbery) he thinks may be in their son’s direct bloodline.

Like Jenna and Alex, Chelsea owns a business on Main Street, the tourist region of town.  It is the only area that was unscathed by the apocalypse of flame after it ravaged apartment complexes, fast food restaurants, grocery stores, larger homes in the neighborhoods on the other side of town. That left Chelsea’s florist shop, Thistle and Rose, standing in Old Town.

Morgan White, the fourth member of the group, at first appears to be an outsider.  In her early twenties, she is much younger than Jenna, Alex, and Chelsea.  Her connection to Tenmile relates to her ailing grandmother, Marjorie, a matriarch of the town with major land and property holdings, including a barn that plays a significant role in the plot when Morgan inherits it.  She also maintains a yarn shop and has a two-year-old daughter by Ryan, the result of an affair while he was still married to Jenna.

Banks adeptly camouflages other secrets, lies, and guilt in Tenmile, eventually managing to resolve all mysteries about the fire and the deaths, reestablishing order and creating new significant bonds.

There is much to savor in the sweltering heat of this page-turning, richly entertaining nail-biter.  It’s truly a rip-roaring barn burner.

–by Robert Allen Papinchak


Reviewed by Guest Reviewer

Grade: A

Book Type: Suspense

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : June 12, 2023

Publication Date: 05/2023

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  1. Dabney, for once in your life, could you please stand up for one of your reviewers when a commenter leaves…

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