Laine Carrington, an FBI agent wounded while breaking up a cult/pot farm, rents a house in Thunder Point while she recuperates and takes stock of her life. Eric Gentry, ex-con made good as a specialist mechanic, catches her eye in the local diner. Soon, the two have moved in together, but their HEA has to be put on hold while family problems are sorted out. I’m glad I had this book for review, because after an utterly forgettable first 60 pages or so, it turned into a solid read. If I hadn’t been reading it for review, I would have bailed.
If you like bold heroines, you’ll like Laine. She asks Eric out. She tells him precisely what she wants in bed and from her relationships. They talk out their problems like actual adults, as when Laine learns about Eric’s criminal history. I appreciated that. I did not appreciate a scene in which Laine showed Eric how easily she could protect herself against rape by evading his hold and flipping him. It felt unrealistic and disrespectful. I liked Eric, but I also felt that making him a super-mechanic who restores top-of-the-line cars for the fabulously wealthy was chickening out. Carr should have the confidence to take on making me fall in love with an ordinary working man.
My biggest problem while reading this book was that I was confused about what kind of book I was reading. I’ve enjoyed Virgin River books and thought I was reading something like that, but when the opening extensively described a federal raid, I started thinking, “Okay, the Thunder Point series must be romantic suspense.” When a mysterious phone call happened and Laine had to change her number, I assumed it was one of the often-cited missing members of the cult coming back for Laine. Nope. Just a realistic problem. Honestly, I prefer that – I don’t think every book ought to culminate in an action sequence – but there were so many conventions of suspense worked into the story that I couldn’t help expecting suspense, even if I like it less. I wasn’t disappointed, just disoriented.
Of course, as with all series small towns, Thunder Point is filled with happy couples. But that’s just a convention of this genre, and disliking it is like complaining that murder rates are too high in certain British villages. This is one of the better such examples I’ve read. One of the greatest compliments I can pay to the author of a series is to say that I don’t actually know which characters in this book starred in the previous books. Couples don’t reappear for the sole purpose of showing us how thrilled they are to be together and how their lives are never-ending merry-go-rounds of fertile delirium. In fact, married protagonists often appear in scenes without their spouse (GASP) for purposes of advancing the plot (DOUBLE GASP). Instead of seeing Generic Happy Wife and Husband, I see Gina, the single-mom diner cook, and pragmatic, laid-back policeman Mac, and I want to know how they got together. I am so much more likely to buy the other books with an approach like this.
Inasmuch as this book has spoilers, it has to do with the nature of the family issues that threaten to force Eric and Laine apart. I won’t give details. I will just say that the issue is realistic and realistically explored, but the resolution is simpler than it might have been. Also, Laine’s main concern through the entire situation seems to be to get back to Oregon and Eric as quickly as possible. While I respect the fact that family members must find their own balance between helping and moving forward with their own lives, Laine felt a bit too focused on herself.
I had some editorial complaints. Dialogue tags and some ideas are repeated, an exclamation point is used in expository writing, and at one point, van brakes are written as “breaks” twice in a row. A good editor could also have smoothed out the tone and pacing issues early in the book.
Laine loves to make soup on rainy days. (We’re told this a few too many times). Carr writes the equivalent of Laine’s soup – cozy, rainy-day books that make you feel a little bit warmer and a little bit better about the world. This isn’t a perfect version of Carr’s recipe, but it’s definitely an acceptable variation.