Reviewed by Tori
A Barlow Lens is the second book in Noble’s Circle series. A sexy little lightweight romantic suspense that uses the past to fix the future. Our heroes, Wyatt and Va,l are busy planning their wedding and getting ready for the Belmont Stakes when an old friend asks for help in solving a decades old mystery. Wyatt and Val shift though the surviving paperwork and slowly piece together the truth as to what happened that fateful day and the events that led up to it. But someone doesn’t want Wyatt and Val to find the truth. In fact, they don’t Wyatt and Val around at all.
This is my first time reading Elizabeth Noble. I didn’t realize this was the second in a series when it was presented for review. You don’t have to read the first to understand this one though it’s advisable if you want more background on the protagonists and how they became a couple. It starts out well with a solid storyline, decent conflict, personable cast of characters and an interesting premise. The flashing between past and present is easy to follow though there are issues which I address at end of review.
The mystery is interesting and I enjoyed the parallels Noble makes in a homosexual relationship in the 1920’s and running it side by side with a homosexual relationship in the present. Our couple from the 20s had to hide their relationship and I admit the things they come up with to hide it are unique but a little too much serendipity. I do feel the short length of the story hobbled Noble’s fleshing out the plot lines she had running. Noble places the most emphasis on Wyatt and Val’s relationship and we get a good amount of emotional and physical scenes. They had believable chemistry and their loving relationship translates well to paper.
The end of the story is a mixture of confusion and deflation. The mystery never evolves beyond linear point. We don’t experience the investigation; it’s mainly tell. The flipping between past and present is interesting and I enjoyed meeting Tom, Phillip, and the others from the past. The problem is that it’s presented from Tom’s point of view ( a dead man) and we are left with a paradox. How are we getting the internal thoughts, feelings, and actions of a dead man? How are Wyatt and Val discovering this? Some of the basic facts could be discovered in letters and documents but not the actual scenes of their love affair. The resolution for the mystery comes at us fast as the answer is right in front of all their eyes and could have just as easily been solved by anyone taking the five minutes to look. We also never get the villain’s motives for his actions. Was it his history with Wyatt? His assumed homophobia? Or was there something in the old boxes of evidence? You get the feeling it was a combination of the three but no confirmation.
Regardless of the strong start, A Barlow Lens just doesn’t add up in the end. I think the story would have been far better had Noble increased it’s length in order to suss out all the individual storylines or narrowed her focus and battened down on the most important.