The Truth About Family
In the last few years, I’ve found series romances much more appealing. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, or because I’m busier. Or maybe I am just lazier. But when I crack one open, it feels like less of a commitment. Somewhere along the line I’ve gotten a better feel for the various lines (although I admit I’m still afraid of Harlequin Presents). I’ve even gained an appreciation for some lines that held little interest for me in the past. I never used to look twice at a Superromance, but I’ve read a few good ones recently. So I picked up The Truth About Family with high hopes. It sounded like a quiet, thoughtful read with interesting characters. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with this one.
When Erin McNulty first hears that her beloved Aunt Caroline has died in a car accident, she is devastated, but she’s also determined to avoid the small Michigan town where she grew up. As impossible as it seems, Erin wants to make every arrangement over the phone, just so she can avoid all the bad memories. As a successful photographer in San Francisco, Erin has worked hard to put her difficult childhood behind her, and even the knowledge that her father is near death as well has little effect on her. But then she realizes that Aunt Caroline left behind an old and dearly loved dog. She can’t let the dog go to a shelter, so she comes to Granite Hills to arrange the funeral and find the dog a new home. She’s also just received an assignment to photograph “small town America.” It’s the kind of photography she hates, but it helps sell magazines – and Erin knows she can find plenty of Rockwell-esque shots in Granite Hills.
Colin Barrett is a Granite Hills police officer. Unlike Erin, he didn’t grow up in town, but more or less migrated there when as a young single father. His parents and sister settled there, and he joined them so he could have some help with his young daughter, Danni. He’s the one that calls Erin to tell her about her aunt’s death, and he finds her cold attitude a little puzzling. At the same time, he is struggling with Danni. Now a teenager, Danni recently discovered that Colin lied to her about her mother. Though he did it to protect her, Danni is angry and not inclined to forgive him.
Erin arrives in Granite Hills looking fragile in every way, and Colin takes her under his wing while he launches an investigation about her aunt’s death. They form a bond of sorts, which is cemented when Erin strikes up a friendship with Danni at the town’s winter festival. Danni shows some talent at photography, and Erin takes her under her wing. Meanwhile, Colin turns up evidence that suggests that Caroline’s death was not an accident; indeed, the causes for her death seem to be rooted in the past. Erin will have to face the difficult task of confronting her childhood, learning uncomfortable truths about her family in the process.
Ordinarily, one would expect Colin and Erin to become romantically involved during the course of the investigation, since this is after all a romance novel. While they do form a relationship, I had trouble believing in it. With all that’s going on, it seems like an afterthought. Oddly, Erin’s rapport with Danni is much more believable. When she looks at Danni, she sees many similarities to herself at the same age, and though she has never been a parent herself, she is able to give Colin some good advice. Still, they always seem a little more like friends than lovers.
At first I thought the subplot about the mysterious events in Erin’s past would make up for the lack of romance. It all involved some sort of weird love triangle with Erin’s mom, her uncle, and the current chief of police. Erin and Colin explore clues in various attics in a Nancy-Drew-and-Ned kind of way that worked for me at first (Colin is Erin’s special friend!). But the resolution to the whole plot goes sadly awry; it’s lame to the point of ridiculousness. The villain comes completely out of left field, and it all ends with a cheesy stand of that we’ve all seen a million times. To make matters worse, the villain keeps saying “friggen.” I assume she meant “friggin’”, the informal form of “frigging” (you know, what you say in a series romance because you just can’t say f_ck). Anyway, it’s important to get those replacement swear words right.
So even withy my newfound appreciation for series romances, I just can’t recommend this one. That said, I wouldn’t be averse to trying another book by this author, this one is her first, and for a debut effort it’s not terrible, even though the ending is not the best and the plot is a little hackneyed. By the way, if anyone reads a series romance where the big city heroine goes back to her hometown and decides that after all she does want to continue living in the big city (with the convenience of art house theaters and plenty of Starbucks) please let me know.