Reviewed by Tori
Hollywood’s biggest leading man finds his golden star tarnished by his actions after his brother’s untimely death. As he drifts further down the abyss, the powers that be offer him a chance at redemption. Do an indie film of their choice to guarantee his future. A murder mystery that drags Brody in when he meets the family, learns about the murder and discovers their biggest secret.
Tijan is my crack in terms of reading ridiculously melodrama fueled campy romances that require little commitment but offer loads of entertainment. A tried and true fan of her Fallen Crest series and various other YA/NA novels that read like an erotic version of 90210, this latest novel didn’t sweep me away as I had hoped. A mosaic of mystery, mayhem, and romance, Tijan offers an intriguing premise, promising her trademark characterization, melodramatic narrative, and delightfully unrealistic situations. This something not only wanted by expected. I did find it emotionally manipulative at times with its dysfunctional family trauma, bad boy redemption, and use of death as a plot point. Several plotlines seemed to conflict with one another while others came and left with abandonment.
Taking place in LA and Montana, Tijan draws us in as she begins by sharing the hero’s fall from grace seven months prior then proceeds to send us to present day Montana; baiting the trap with the introduction of the heroine, her siblings, and hinting at an elephant in the room.
Brody Asher was Hollywood’s golden boy until he heard his brother die while on the phone with him. A spiral of grief and anger causes him to act out and become Hollywood’s bad boy. A heartthrob with a healthy sexual appetite, in person he is a professional through and through; well versed in his craft and not as willing to bed whoever issues an invite, despite what the tabloids claim. A child of abuse and neglect, Brody is determined to clean himself up and get back to banking on his future.
I liked Brody right off the bat. He tells his story with little fanfare or drama. A nasty childhood left him and his brother unusually close and his brother’s death chopped him off at the knees. With no privacy to grieve and the vultures taking advantage from all directions, he messed up but owns it. He has a strong protective streak and rears its head when he meets the heroine, Morgan Kellerman.
Morgan is a young woman whom most of the world views as a ghost. She disappeared when her mother was murdered 10 years ago, hiding from the killer and eventually finding solace with a herd of wild mustangs. Her stepfather left the estate with his children, abandoning Morgan to in her grief to caretakers. Older now, Morgan stays isolated on the estate and only seems happiest when she is with her beloved horses.
Morgan was harder to make a connection with. She is portrayed as a socially and emotionally damaged individual who was abandoned by everyone she loved. She takes on the characteristics of a human who was raised by animals; think Tarzan. Yet, for all her “manufactured” awkwardness, Morgan interacts quite easily with her step-siblings and Brody.
The suspense builds with each scene as Tijan takes us through the mystery in stages through memories and narrative. A plethora of characters dots the landscape, every one of them playing a part in revealing the whole story, including the horses. They were probably the most honest beings in this story. Morgan’s siblings take on main roles as Brody and Morgan’s relationship heats up. This is where it began to fall apart for me. While I genuinely enjoyed the mystery, Tijan really skimps on the intrigue and spends too much time trying to trick readers rather than drawing out the anticipation. Brody and Morgan get hot and heavy quickly but vague chemistry and random conversations do not a relationship make. He and Morgan spend most of their time having sex so unsure how or why they fall in love. Tijan spends too much time telling us what is happening rather than showing us.
The ending comes at us fast and falls flat as we learn the truth which contradicts some scenes earlier in the book. Readers get their HEA but at a price. I liken this book to a puzzle that wasn’t made correctly. While each piece is important, none of them fit well enough to form a clear picture.
Not the worst I’ve read from Tijan but definitely not her best effort.