The Bluewater Affair
The Family Secrets series has been somewhat of a disappointment for me so far, not really living up to the coolness of its premise, about the search for five genetically-engineered siblings created in an experiment in the 1960s. The good news is Cindy Gerard’s The Bluewater Affair gets the series back on track. It also works in a way so that anyone who hasn’t read the previous books doesn’t need to. They can start with this one.
Abandoned by the father of her unborn child, Susannah Hobson finally returns home to the Colorado town she left four years earlier. She hopes to make amends with the stepmother whose love she never returned, only to find Violet died in a mysterious car crash shortly before her arrival. The police are calling it an accident, but Susannah has her doubts.
When she finds a letter from Violet indicating she thought her life was in danger, Susannah knows there’s more to the story. Violet had never spoken much about her past, and as Susannah uncovers hidden clues to her stepmother’s dark history, she’s afraid to believe the fantastical story could be true.
Susannah could use an ally. She just doesn’t know whether to consider Travis Dean one. The neighboring rancher had been a good friend to Violet, but he only seems to want Susannah to leave. Convinced that there’s no way a pregnant woman could handle a ranch on her own, he figures it’d be better for her to sell out and make a start somewhere else.
Travis is no stranger to fresh starts, having left behind a life in California to begin anew on his grandparents’ ranch. He’s an outsider, still viewed with suspicion by the townspeople who whisper about the rumors that he spent time in prison. But as much as he wants to stay away from Susannah, he can’t manage to do it.
Although this not the first of the Family Secrets books, it almost serves to restart the series. What Susannah learns in this book essentially spells out the entire premise in a way that’s clearer than it has been in the others. The whole history of the experiment, the siblings, and Violet’s life story is retold. Anyone who has read the first three stories won’t learn much they didn’t already know, but the storyline is advanced, raising questions for future books, and it’s nice to get a firm grip on the complicated backstory.
The Bluewater Affair also stands on its own as a strong story in its own right, not just as a part as the connected series. This isn’t the type of book I normally read: pregnant heroine, ranch setting and all. One thing that weakened the last two books for me was how the usual traditional Silhouette plots (successful woman is desperate for a baby to fulfill her; secretary falls for her boss) felt forced with the more modern genetic engineering storyline. But Gerard shows that it can be done effectively.
Here this common plot doesn’t seem so out of place with the overall series elements, maybe because these characters are apart from the main action. Gerard’s storytelling style is engaging, and there’s a great deal of warmth and tenderness in her depiction of her characters. Susannah has some guilt to work through about the way she treated the stepmother who loved her. Travis has heartbreak of his own in the past. There are some nice character moments and touches throughout. Travis does have an aggravating habit of jumping to the wrong conclusions at times, but it’s a sweet relationship between two wounded characters who slowly grow closer.
The two plot threads, the Violet mystery and the relationship, work well together instead of against each other. Despite the mystery element, this isn’t a very plot-driven story, propelled more by the characters than the action. A pleasant, evenly-paced read, it certainly rekindled my interest in the series and is a good way for a newcomer to jump into it.