Reviewed by Tori
Thomas Bellweather hasn’t been in town long. Just long enough for his newlywed mother to be murdered, and for his new stepdad’s cop colleagues to decide Thomas is the primary suspect.
Not that there’s any evidence. But before Thomas got to Garretts Mill there had just been one other murder in twenty years.
The only person who believes him is Charlotte Rooker, little sister to three cops and, with her soft hands and sweet curves, straight-up dangerous to Thomas. Her best friend was the other murder vic. And she’d like a couple answers.
Answers that could get them both killed, and reveal a truth Thomas would die to keep hidden… (Goodreads)
This is my first time reading Brigid Kemmerer so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The premise is interesting and caught my eye with it’s promised blend of mystery and romance. The book starts off with a bang; opening up to a funeral and introducing the main protagonists to one another. It’s a sweet moment when a lonely boy meets a pretty girl and she helps him tie his tie. It quickly goes downhill though when the hero, Thomas, is arrested for assaulting a police officer. Of course, it’s the girl’s brother. Our heroine, Charlotte, is given a dressing down for associating with a suspected murderer. She comes from a very overprotective family of cops; she is the only girl and a diabetic. When Thomas is released from jail, he goes to his mother’s gravestone and who is also there? Charlotte. She offers him comfort, asking if he wants to see her “secret place” and leads him into the woods only to succumb to diabetic shock. Thomas carries her out, saving her life, and BOOM her brothers’ have been lying in wait and he goes back to jail.
I’m going to stop here for a moment because all of this happened in just the first couple of chapters and my rage meter went off the charts. I rarely have such a visceral reactions to books. And that is the reaction Kemmerer is counting on. I’m all for creating suspense, turmoil, and some sympathy but the set up is blatantly emotional. Thomas is the underdog, Charlotte’s brothers are the villains, and we are MAD.
From there Kemmerer works on establishing the romance between Thomas and Charlotte while slowly building the mystery. I wasn’t completely on board with the romance. It felt more like good old teen lust than anything else. Very little chemistry. I did enjoy the dual narrative. It always helps when you’re able to see certain scenes from both points of view. Kemmerer does a good job of capturing that age where we hover between childhood and adulthood. Thomas and Charlotte both have just the right balance of tough bravado and heartbreaking vulnerability. Intelligence mixed with rebellion. I liked Thomas right off the bat. His emotional grid is heartbreaking as we watch him struggle with everything that is coming at him. Charlotte I had to warm up to a little because she seemed to take chances that always ended up with Thomas paying the price. Yet I had to admire her tenacity in sticking by his side and not instantly believing his guilt.
The mystery winds throughout the story, the suspense and intrigue more of a result from being kept in the dark along with the protagonists than anything else. Little detail is given and it rushes in some areas, causing the pace to stumble and go off kilter at times. I admit Kemmerer kept me in the dark until a certain reveal is made towards the last ⅓. At that point I was shocked and dismayed. Especially when the whole story begins to emerge. Honestly, I felt Kemmerer took the easy way out, using sleight of hand and a cheap plot device to help magically explain away discrepancies and blank spots in her storyline.
I started this book anticipating a suspenseful mystery with a sweet YA romance and felt as if only the surfaces was scratched. The entire story felt tossed together like a potluck dinner where none of the ingredients blended well. We are left with too many questions and the open-ended conclusion hints at a possible series. I personally wasn’t impressed and do not see myself continuing with the author.