Sometimes when I review a book, I can grade it easily because it’s consistently a B or an A or an F or whatever throughout. Not so with Private Affair. This romantic suspense novel starts off strong, but pretty much implodes toward the end, leaving readers with a story that starts off well and ends up so poorly that it’s actually even offensive.
Olivia Winters grew up as a farmer’s daughter in wealthy Howard County, Maryland and did pretty much whatever she had to to fit in with the “popular” crowd in high school. Now an adult, she has left for New York City and found success as a model. She’s quick to say she isn’t a supermodel, but she has a steady stream of work. Returning home for her high school reunion has brought old demons to the surface, though.
Since Olivia left town, a number of her classmates have met mysterious, supposedly accidental ends. When her best friend gets murdered, Olivia is more than a little bit suspicious and so she turns to the Rockfort Agency for help investigating the deaths. It just so happens one of the principals in the agency went to Olivia’s high school. Max Lyon was a couple of years ahead of her, and of course, he was the bad boy, outsider type.
As is often the case in these types of stories, Max felt an attraction to Olivia even back in high school, and it starts to come to the surface again as he works with her. In order to get into her high school “in crowd”, he poses as Olivia’s fiance. As they spend time together, the two start to trust one another and trust eventually turns into quite a bit more. The suspense keeps tightening and tightening as the story moves along, too, and I initially settled into something that felt a bit like a Christopher Pike throwback – in a good way.
However, as the suspense plot started to take shape, it started to go in directions that just didn’t work as romance or even just as entertainment for me. There are rather frequent references to sexual assault throughout the book, so readers who have difficulties with this type of material will want to be aware of that. In addition, the second half of the book disappointed me quite a bit by building up to a climax that was not only unnecessarily brutal but also way over the top in terms of violence. In addition, some excruciatingly poor romantic timing seemed to trivialize the brutality survived by the characters, a result I think (I hope) the author didn’t intend. I hated some of the choices that the author made for her characters toward the end of this book, and I also felt put off by how quickly and easily they seemed to recover from some pretty unspeakable horrors.
Not only did the suspense plot start off in promising fashion, but the romance ultimately felt phoned in as well. Max and Olivia begin the book with some rather promising romantic tension, but the overall development of their characters and their relationship ends up being rather rushed. Even though it’s part of a series, Private Affair can stand alone, but given the frustration and disappointment I found with this book,I still can’t recommend it.