Reviewed by Tori
Jack King. a former homicide detective turned security expert, is a Harlequin alpha through and through; the quiet hero with a dark past riddled in anger, bitterness, and betrayal. Driven out of his hometown of Pine Lake, TX, by the town’s false accusations of murder, he’s come back 15 years later after receiving some odd phone calls from his former high school buddies who hint that some of the details behind the death of his high school girlfriend aren’t exactly true. Especially when he learns that she kept some secrets from him.
Upon his arrival, he is instantly embroiled in another murder that takes him back down memory lane and has him viewing the town with prejudicial eyes. His discovery of the body also reintroduces him to Olive Belmont, the cousin of his former best friend, Nathan. She is all grown up and the local high school principal. Olive has a habit of sleepwalking which is how she ends up at the scene of the murder. Jack saves her life and Olive’s former teenage crush roars to the surface. Only, this Jack is nothing like the old Jack and that scares Olive. However, she doesn’t feel he is guilty of anything and vows o help him clear his name for good and discover the truth.
Jack’s investigation into both deaths and the attempts on his and Olive’s life leads him into the town’s seedy drug culture and the ties that bind it to some of the city’s top residents. As Jack grows closer to discovering the truth, he also grows close to Olive. But unless Jack can let go of the past, he may not have a future to embrace.
As a fan of Amanda Stevens Graveyard series I was intrigued when I learned she had written a nonparanormal romance suspense for Harlequin Intrigue. Set in the small town of Pine Lake, TX, Stevens uses her sharp writing skills to build an atmospheric mystery that has ties to the past and present when a young woman’s murder mimics another murder from 15 years ago. Dark and descriptive, this story has all the elements of a classic who dun with a brooding alpha hero, a slightly damaged heroine, and a slew of suspects and motives all converging together in a sleepy little southern small town with a long memory. The storylines straightforward reveal blends well with the solid suspense-filled mystery. A steady pace and engaging narrative serve to keep the reader guessing as Steven’s expertly juggles multiple plotlines while she fans the flames of Jack and Olive’s attraction. Some may be disappointed by the low key romance but I found it provided nice fodder for the story’s much stronger mystery elements.
The storyline’s straightforward reveal blends well with the solid suspense-filled mystery. A steady pace and engaging narrative serve to keep the reader guessing as Steven’s expertly juggles multiple plotlines while she fans the flames of Jack and Olive’s attraction. Some may be disappointed by the low key romance but I found it provided nice fodder for the story’s much stronger mystery elements.
The ending wasn’t a surprise (I had guessed who the villains were) but their motive was and I commend Steven’s for her clever little manipulations and subterfuge. Though a definite deviation from Steven’s usual fare, Pine Lake is an enjoyable bit of escapism for fans who enjoy a mystery that keeps them guessing.