The Harbor follows a popular trend among recent MIRA releases. Like Anne Stuart’s Still Lake and Sharon Sala’s Dark Water, it involves someone who returns to a small New England town to uncover the truth about a past murder. It also shares the same problem as its predecessors: weak romance, weak suspense.
In The Harbor, Zoe West returns to her hometown of Goose Harbor, Maine. A year earlier, Zoe’s father, police chief Patrick West, was murdered, and her elderly aunt died soon afterward. Following the deaths, Zoe set aside her plans of becoming an FBI agent and found a job as a police officer in a small Connecticut town. Having recently lost that job (apparently due to events in the author’s last release, Stonebrook Cottage), she’s at a loss with what to do with her life. Then her sister calls to say someone broke into their aunt’s home, and an FBI agent, claiming to be on vacation, is in town.
Determined to find out why the FBI is in her hometown, Zoe hightails it back to Goose Harbor and sets about investigating Agent J.B. McGrath. Though his reasons for being there aren’t even close to what she’s imagined, the two are at odds in no time. Zoe searches his hotel room and gets him evicted. Figuring she owes him a place to stay, J.B. promptly breaks into her aunt’s house and moves in.
That kind of cutesy antagonism continues throughout the book, as J.B. and Zoe bicker and generally annoy each other. Of course that just means they really like each other, and on one level, that’s fine. They have a nice rapport and seem well matched. On the other hand, this isn’t the most mature relationship I’ve ever read about. Worse, though, is that they simply aren’t very interesting people. Zoe’s Aunt Olivia only appears for seven pages in the prologue and she shows more personality than J.B. and Zoe do throughout the book. The author offers the perspective of a number of secondary characters, and all of them are more distinctive than the hero and heroine, who come across as overly familiar wounded law enforcement types.
The main characters are also part of the reason why the suspense plot falls short. I haven’t described much about this side of the story because Zoe and J.B. are strangely disconnected from it. Mostly involved in their own relationship, they don’t seem to do anything but react to everything that happens around them for more than two-thirds of the book. The suspense plot is driven by two supporting characters who run around causing trouble. There’s never much of an investigation into the deaths or the strange events in happen. Events just kind of fall into place and J.B. and Zoe are constantly playing catch up. It’s never a good sign when the two main characters are among the least dynamic in the book. When the characters don’t seem to feel much urgency to find out what’s happening around them, what chance is there that the reader will?
With a romance that lacks fire and mystery that lacks tension, The Harbor is an uninvolving tale.