The last line of Stephen King’s Stand by Me is “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” That’s an important question for the heroines of this novel. Marked by a violent and tragic event in their tweens they are pulled apart when their families relocate them for their safety. But they have never known another friendship that equaled what they had when they were girls. When it looks like someone is stirring the past up again and they must unite to fight, will they still feel what they did in the idyllic days of their childhood?
The novel starts with Madeline Chase breaking up with her most recent fling. The man is a marriage therapist who sleeps with his clients so she definitely feels like she’s better off without him, but the encounter leaves her with more than a few negative emotions. It doesn’t help that Jack Rayner, head of security for her chain of hotels, advises her that this is the last time he will run background checks on her significant others or serve as backup when she needs to break up. It’s not in his job description and not going to be something he does again. She begins to wonder just what she’s paying him for.
Jack shows her what she’s paying for a few days later when she’s dealing with a far more serious dilemma. When Madeline and her grandmother had relocated, her grandmother had closed the hotel in which they had been living as well as managing, the Aurora Point on Cooper Island. The property has never been sold. Madeline has gone out there to speak to the elderly caretaker but when she arrives, she finds him near death and winds up running for safety within moments. By the time the police arrive the caretaker has died and the intruder/murderer has fled the scene. The police think it is a B&E gone bad but Madeline knows the truth and knows there is only one person to call for help. Jack comes out on the next available flight to hear her tale.
18 years ago Madeline had been assaulted by a guest at the hotel. Her friend Daphne witnessed the man taking her and ran for help, getting her mother who then got Madeline’s grandma and the caretaker. The adults saved her by killing the assailant. They buried him beneath a gazebo on the property and then dispersed, swearing never to speak of it. But the caretaker’s last words make it clear that the “insurance” they were holding to protect themselves (in the form of a briefcase) has come to light. The briefcase has been stolen from its hiding spot and people are dying in “accidents”, of which the caretaker’s is the most recent.
And so the adventure begins. Madeline and Jack, who have been fighting an attraction to each other for months, find themselves working in close quarters. They have to figure out what was in the briefcase (the adults had never told the girls) and just who would benefit from killing everyone that knew the secret. Daphne and Madeline reunite and find that their “Secret Sister” friendship is as strong as ever. Abe, Jack’s brother, joins the party as another security analyst and finds himself falling for Daphne. A few adventures, some sex and a couple more deaths later see us at an assured HEA for the main couple and a likely HEA for our supporting characters.
This book is mostly predictable with stock JAK characters. In fact, one could argue that the characters lean more towards sketches of characters rather than full blown creations. It gets off to a slow start and the romance doesn’t really sizzle. It definitely isn’t JAK’s greatest work.
However, those faults don’t really define this book. What does define it, for me, is the easy, enjoyable nature of the work. Krentz nails the balance between writing a romance, a mystery and a feel-good read. The novel does deal with some serious issues such as murder, child molesters and psychopaths but those scenes are never gory or gruesome and we never stay in them long. Once the mystery really gets going it’s completely engaging and there are a few thrilling surprises along the way. This book wouldn’t work as simply a romance or as simply a mystery but combining all the aspects together makes for a pleasing whole.
If you are a fan of Krentz work I think you will like Secret Sisters. If you like your suspense and romance on the light side I think you will be delighted with it. It might not be a great read but it is a good one and one I am happy to recommend.