Seconds to Live
In Melinda Leigh’s Seconds To Live, the hero, Mac Barrett, is a wildlife biologist. I read that in the blurb and requested the novel at once, because… wildlife biologist. In a romantic suspense. This was new. I couldn’t wait to see how he would use scientific principles or field techniques.
I should have known better, right?
But more on that later. The plot also sounded gripping. Mac has avoided his hometown of Scarlet Falls for some time, but his father’s impending death brings him back. Delayed by an injury, though, Mac misses his father’s last moments. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, later he nearly runs over a woman lying in the road, swerving to avoid her and crashing into a tree. He regains consciousness and the woman’s body is gone.
Then someone else finds him — Stella Dane, a detective who’s investigating the murder of another woman. She’s always been drawn to Mac, and he’s always been turned on by her, so their UST doesn’t stay U for long while they search for the connection between the victims. Mac has a few demons in his past, though, and the killer targets another woman close to Stella.
This had the potential to be a great story. Fast pacing plus some vivid imagery (she wilted like a thirsty daisy was my favorite), and all the forensic jargon rang true. What disappointed me were the well-worn tropes.
First, Mac is actually a DEA agent, albeit one with a PhD, so he didn’t need ecological know-how to win fights. He was also trained in survival techniques by his father, “the Colonel”, one of those Military Men so enamored of his profession that he names his children after army bases or famous generals. You know the type.
Second, Scarlet Falls gave me claustrophobia. Everyone is connected to everyone else. Stella’s colleague and Mac’s sister were the stars of the previous story, while another colleague casts longing glances at Stella’s sister, setting them up for the next book. And when Mac insists on joining the investigation, the chief of police agrees, because he knows the Barretts are so determined and independent they’ll do whatever they want anyway.
Third, I guessed who the killer was halfway through, and who his next victim would be, so the suspense was somewhat lacking.
For that matter, the romance wasn’t exactly heartpounding either. Stella and Mac are likeable people. She’s brave and caring and competent. He’s handsome and protective, plus he deserves a bright future after everything he went through in the past. They’ll be very happy, because nothing stood between them except Mac’s avoidance of his home town. And at the end, everything he needs is right there (loving siblings, adorable kids, well-paying job, fulfilling volunteer work) so that wrapped it up.
Readers who are already fans of the Scarlet Falls series, or who like the “serial killer in perfect small town” scenario, should enjoy Seconds To Live. But it was a bland, middle-of-the-road read for me, except the next time I pick up a romantic suspense, it won’t matter what the blurb says about the hero. He will never be just a scientist.