I’m in the middle of the first snow-less December I have had in years and loving every minute of it. While I am normally a fan of the downy white flakes, the ice that accompanies them and clings to every hard surface – stairs, paths and roads – is not my friend. I don’t mind reading about it, though, and in the pages of this novel I found snow in June. And all the other things you think of when you think Colorado: Fir filled forests, mine shafts, wild saloons, fossils, and rugged manly men who sweep you off your feet.
Maggie Larkin has worked hard to overcome her teenage reputation as the easiest lay in Barringer’s Pass. But the locals have long memories and big mouths, and it is clear that reality star Rafael De Luca has been the recipient of some outdated information. His “won’t take no for an answer” pass results in a barroom brawl starring Maggie that rapidly becomes tabloid fodder. Certain she can grin and bear the nasty publicity, she becomes increasingly distressed when she realizes just how far gossip rag reporters are prepared to go to liven up a good story. It doesn’t help that Rafe’s lawyers get involved, pushing Maggie to change her story and agree with their party line. With only her sisters in her corner, is there anyone she can trust to help her out of this mess?
Cal Drummond has taken vacation time from his job as a state police officer in Oklahoma to track down a killer. Reality “pretty boy” Rafe might think he has gotten away with killing a string of teenage girls but Cal intends to see him pay for the crime. His half-sister was one of the girls Rafe murdered and dumped with no apparent effect on his charmed life. Rescuing Maggie from the middle of the brawl is perhaps the ticket he needs to get an inside track on Rafe. It is clear that the humiliation of being bested in their fight has Rafe determined to stick around and go for round two. It is equally clear Maggie intends to give Rafe a no holds barred battle. But will Cal be able to concentrate on the job at hand when he finds himself more than a little attracted to the red headed spitfire leading the charge? Battling the media, the townspeople who benefit from the De Luca’s presence, and the lawyers who are determined to keep them in line, Cal and Maggie begin a reluctant partnership to track a killer.
I am not a reality TV watcher and can not attest to any accuracy regarding the depiction of their interaction with the media, the law, or their fans. I can attest to the fact that this was the most fascinating part of the book. As Cal and Maggie begin their quest for justice, they learn what it is like to deal with everything in the world of Hollywood sleaze. Rafe is part of the show Trust Fund Brats, and in addition to his extreme wealth, he has deep ties to the community. That gives him a lot of leverage over Maggie, who is a small business owner trying to rise above her high school reputation. Maggie also has family to protect, which puts her at an added disadvantage. Watching her struggle to learn how to handle the media was intriguing. I liked how the book highlighted this as a learning process that required acquiring allies in order to have any success. I also liked how Maggie’s retail store stood at the center of the storm. Your place of work would be an easy location to find you. If you were the owner, it would also be a huge area of vulnerability. Showing how the rich have such long arms and could prove to be such dangerous enemies in completely civilized ways made the suspense that much more chilling.
I also enjoyed seeing the small town aspect from the vantage point of the local bad girl. While we get lots of romances about the local bad boy made good we rarely get one about the heroine doing the same. Maggie’s struggle against her well earned past reputation and the response of the townsfolk as a whole seemed very legit to me. Women have a harder time living down a “wild oats” period than men do. Maggie was a strong, capable woman and I think I would have really liked her character if she wasn’t also feisty to the nth degree. In her quest to appear brave and independent she would follow a mature, well thought out action with some TSTL behavior. That kept me from being fully on her side. That is also where the book began its downward spiral. Things became a lot more rote after we moved past the initial aspects of the case.
Cal is a bit of a caricature. He’s a tough cop who feels bad he was never close to his family. To make up for it he goes full throttle after the man he suspects hurt his sister. He falls hard for the feisty gal who is helping him achieve that end. He has some past baggage which keeps him from fully connecting with Maggie until he sees that her recklessness is always fueled by her need to help others. He had trouble with an adrenaline junkie before and doesn’t want to go down that road again. I had a tough time connecting with him because everything about him I encountered felt plotted. Nothing about him took him from stock character to a living, breathing being I could root for.
Some of the characters brought in a third of the way into the book really didn’t work for me. The bratty teen and new age-y mom could easily have been taken from the story and we would not have missed them. Another problem I had was how the author backed away from hard decisions. Saving Maggie’s store was one such problem; the convenient solution didn’t really ring true for me. The De Lucas also went from subtle to hostile, another factor that didn’t play well for me.
This book had the makings of a great suspense novel, but seemed to fall a bit short in the execution. It is a tad better than a lot of what is out there simply because the author took a somewhat original premise and ran with it. If you are a die hard suspense fan you might want to give it a try, but otherwise I would recommend giving it a pass.