From an emotional standpoint, the best Intrigue I've read so far this year. While the plot is well done,
Here's the blurb:
For bomb squad K-9 officer Donovan Colton, nothing about a failed car bombing in his Texas hometown makes sense. Why would anyone target quiet, secretive accountant Bellamy Reeves, and why does his canine partner instantly trust her? Donovan is searching for his own mysterious past, but he can't resist solving the riddle that is beautiful Bellamy.
After experiencing a tragic loss, Bellamy knows how hard it can be to trust. Threatened by her former employer, she is reluctant to open up to dangerously sexy Donovan—or his adorable dog! But the harder Donovan works to keep her safe, the more Bellamy longs to let what's between them turn into something more—even as their lives are poised to be blown apart…
Donovan and Bellamy actually meet 4-5 years earlier when Donovan comes into Bellamy's shop with puppy Alex, who's ill because he's swallowed Lego pieces. They're about to arrange a dinner date when Donovan receives a call to a car accident, which turns out to involve Bellamy's parents. They don't see each other again until years after.
The emotional conflicts: Bellamy is dealing with the recent deaths of her parents, for whom she was the carer after the accident. Maggie is her younger sister, gorgeous and popular. Maggie and Bellamy used to be close until the accident, when they had a falling out. Bellamy thought Megan wasn't pulling her weight.
Donovan is adopted into the powerful Colton family when he's found as a baby in a barn. Despite being in a loving family, he's never accepted the Coltons as family and has never felt he belonged.
The growing attraction between Donovan and Bellamy can't really be resolved before they've resolved their own family problems.
[added later] The underlying theme for the novel is family relationships: Bellamy and Maggie, Donovan and the Coltons, and Sutton and his son.[end]
Harlequin has a Romantic Suspense line where the Romance part is 60-75% and the suspense the rest. Intrigues usually reverse that.
This book was 50-50, and the ratio is perfect. The emotional tangles are described and untangled so well, I was completely absorbed by them.
In romances, we know the hero and heroine will come through it all and be united in the end in a HEA or HFN, So how the journey is handled is usually very important, though less so in Intrigues, as the suspense has the upper hand. I actually went back and re-read some passages like a cat lapping up double cream.
Families, and the people that are their members, are complicated. As Megan tells Donovan,
As often happens, the author sneaks in some personal viewpoints on the down-low.
"And where there was panic and chaos, you had the right mix to put an object in demand.
Wasn’t that the heart of all supply and demand? Make it seem irresistible and you made the product a must-have.
A word on writing formats like Harlequin Inrigues: it is very difficult. It's akin to writing a short story in a tweet. The format means that sometimes ideas that normally would be expressed over 2-3 paragraphs are done in one. And characters often use words in sentences that are more at home in a academic setting. But it's often necessary - why use three words when one will do? The trick is to do it in a way that flows and doesn't crack the suspension of disbelief necessary in any work of fiction.
It's very demanding of the author, and that it's usually pulled off very well shows how talented they really are.
Some of my favourite passages:
“Biology doesn’t dictate your relationships. Look at Maggie and me. We’re sisters and we can’t seem to find common ground. What matters is the relationships you have. The love you have for each other. The family you make.”
“Family’s hard. It’s messy and emotional. That’s why I love animals so much. They take you just the way you are.”
'“Things aren’t always as simple.” She laid a hand on his arm. “Even when they should be.”'