Secret, I’ve got a secret! If you’ve ever heard this phrase then you know the annoyance factor it engenders, which makes it a perfect title for the latest by Kat Martin. This suspense novel, and I use the term loosely, is annoying on so many different levels that it’s difficult to narrow it down to just a few for this review.
Topping the annoyance chart is the hero. He’s Chance McLain, a rancher in Lost Peak, Montana who has an instant attraction to newcomer Kate Rollins. By instant, I mean he gets hard when he sees Kate’s soft, size D breasts. Soft is a word he uses often to describe Kate, as opposed to his supermodel girlfriend who is extremely thin and presumably hard. After their first meeting he’s ready to sleep with Kate and figures she’ll be amenable to a no-strings relationship:
Both of them were unattached adults – a little physical enjoyment never hurt anyone. As tense as she sometimes seemed, it would probably be good for her. Thinking of her softly feminine figure and those round, voluptuous breasts, Chance had no doubt that it would be good for him.
What a guy, he’s willing to have sex with Kate without making any sort of a commitment. And he tells himself that he’s unattached, though he’s practically engaged to his supermodel, Rachel.
Don’t get me wrong, or think that Kate is the wronged party in this one, because she wouldn’t win any prizes either. She’s left her high-powered marketing job in L.A. to take over the local diner in Lost Peak. Kate has just survived a near-death experience and thinks that her deceased grandmother tried to tell her something in the vision she had. She also wants to get her troubled twelve-year-old son out of the city and figures that Lost Peak is “a place with good old-fashioned values, a place where the late news isn’t filled with rape and murder.” Of course, from the second she hits town she finds evidence of murder, the poisoning of the local streams by a big, bad industrialist and his henchman who’s willing to do rape and murder. Still, she continues to extol the wonders of this “family values” place.
The Secret includes a drive-by shooting, near death experience, macho-pig hero, troubled preteen, a murder that only the heroine can figure out, evil corporate drones destroying the pristine environment, has anything been left out? Oh yeah, there’s two other people who are making our intrepid heroine’s life a misery. One is a tabloid reporter chasing the story of Kate’s near death experience long after anyone would care, the other is her ex-husband, who only became an ex after (you guessed it) her near death experience.
Part of the reason none of this matters to the reader is the pacing. Page five: Overworked Kate is worried about her troubled marriage and son. Page seven: She’s been shot in the head. Page sixteen: Three weeks later, Kate sees a near death expert, decides to make changes in her life. Page twenty-six: It’s two months later Kate is going to leave no-good husband and take their son to Montana. Page thirty-two: Kate’s son is arrested joy riding. Page thirty-six: Kate’s soon-to-be ex is going to fight for custody of their son, Tommy, even though he doesn’t really want him. Kate’s going to be forced to pay him alimony if she wants to keep her son with her. This is all in the way of making sure we realize how bad her husband is, how wonderful Kate is, and how desperately she needs to move to Lost Peak and rediscover the meaning of her life. All well and good, but every plot point happens with a matter-of-factness that stifles any emotional connection a reader could make. It’s writing by-the-numbers.
The suspense is written as though plugged into a formula as well. As soon as Kate hits town, she becomes one of the leaders in a grass-roots effort to stop an environmentally unfriendly mine from being opened. Kate knows nothing about the matter, but because she worked in advertising in the big city, she’s a natural to become the spokesperson for the group, or so we’re supposed to believe. Of course, because she’s the spokesperson, she becomes the target for the henchman right out of central casting who is determined to rape and/or murder her, whichever strikes his fancy. The attacks on her may or may not be connected to her grandmother’s death. By the time the reveal comes, I didn’t care – not about the mystery, not about Kate, and certainly not about Chance.
I could go on, maybe say something about how when the hero and heroine kiss his tongue is always taking her mouth. Or perhaps describe how Kate, who has never had a man jealous of her, sets out to make Chance jealous, who responds by telling her he wants to tear her clothes off and drive himself into her. Maybe I should mention Chance’s chauvinistic promises to the supermodel’s dad to take care of her, never mind the fact that Rachel has been working all over the world for several years and can definitely take care of herself. Nah…I think I’ll stop here.
I’m a fan of suspense novels and don’t mind when romance authors branch out. The kicker for me on this one, is that I’m sure I’ve read other books by this author that, while not on my keeper shelf, did not make me want grind my teeth down to nubs. Night Secrets is one title that comes to mind. So what went wrong with The Secret? Your guess is as good as mine.