Reviewed By Tori
Detective Jeremy Lawrence never expected a trip home to Butte, Montana would end up with him having to investigate his brother Robert’s murder. Especially not with his former neighbor and high school crush.
Deputy Blake West, a single mom, hasn’t seen Jeremy in forever. Learning he is divorced, Blake wants to see if the chemistry between them still burns as hot and bright as it did so many years ago. But when the killer sets their sights on Blake and her family, Jeremy and Blake will have to put their romance on the back burner as they race against time to discover who wanted Robert dead and why.
I grew up with Harlequin Intrigues. I love the blend of the intense suspense and romance and lack of filler in the storyline. Quick, fun, usually sexy reads. Dusted Up with the Detective is part of a loosely structured series based in Montana. I haven’t read the one before it-Smoke and Ashes– but don’t feel it was a requirement to understand this one. Dust Up with the Detective promises a lot but for me didn’t deliver. I enjoyed the conflict-small town politics, a woman’s struggle in a predominately male environment, and a suspicious death-but the fast tracked romance, lack of structure, and inconsistencies in the storyline left me uneasy and full of questions.
The story opens on with our heroine, Blake West, rushing home to discover who she thinks is a stranger attacking her daughter, is really her old friend and crush, Jeremy Lawrence, helping her daughter remove a pair of handcuffs. With a hacksaw. This was the first of many issues.
Most police issued standard handcuffs all use the same key. There is no way Jeremy, a detective, wouldn’t carry a spare pair of cuffs and key with him. Even on vacation. It’s a cop thing. But let’s say for the story’s sake he doesn’t carry a spare pair. Why use a hacksaw? The child wasn’t in any immediate danger. Why not just wait for Blake to come home (she had already been called) OR load up the kid and take her to the police station for removal?
To top it all off, Blake is chastised, in front of Jeremy, by her mother for not hiding the handcuffs better. Huh? Megan is 13. Old enough to know better. The whole scene, which is set up to reintroduce Blake and Jeremy, seemed more inclined to just embarrass Blake and cause unnecessary conflict.
From this point on, Winters’ simultaneously builds the layered mystery steeped in police procedures while cluing us into the feelings Blake and Jeremy have had for one another since high school. Winters’ attempts to build a tense, emotionally motivated romance falls flat. The problem is we don’t have enough background on them and what we are given doesn’t support this train of thought. Blake and Jeremy are around the same age and they never dated-just good friends who hung out. In Blake’s attempts to push Jeremy into admitting his feelings for her, she dated someone else and ended up pregnant and alone at age 16. Plenty of internal dialogue on both sides shows us they are still interested in one another but the intensity of their feelings, along with the push and pull they engage in, is better suited for a couple who has a strong romantic history. They move really fast and engage in some inappropriate places.
Winters’ pretty much tells us who the villain(s) are in the very beginning with a cast of characters list though she takes us step by step through the investigation to give us the reasons behind the murder. While I liked Blake, I didn’t like Jeremy. I found him indecisive and pushy and I never felt he really took Blake or her job as a deputy seriously. His pushiness gets her in a multiple messes, to the point where she is almost fired. Blake, on the other hand, annoyed me with the romance but I liked her fortitude and love for her family. She’s good at her job and doesn’t allow anyone to belittle her for it.
A large cast of secondary characters help to round out the story, giving clues to the mystery and some insights into the protagonists deeply buried issues. The ending comes at us fast and wraps up the mystery and romance up in a tidy little bow, leaving readers secure in the fact that Blake and Jeremy have found their HEA. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy any of it.