Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Her Mother's Killer by Melissa Schroeder

TITLE: Her Mother’s Killer
AUTHOR: Melissa Schroeder
PUBLISHER: Whiskey Creek Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 60k)
GENRE: Romantic erotic suspense
COST: $6.49

The murder of her mother has haunted Thea Warren’s life, driving her from the small town of Crocker where she grew up and into the arms of a man who never truly appreciated or loved her. Now, with her divorce final, she’s returned to Crocker to try and start over, running from hints that someone is stalking her. Duncan Perry, her older brother’s best friend, grew up with Thea, and now, as Crocker’s sheriff, finds himself thrust into the position of protecting her from what is an obvious threat. But Thea isn’t the kid he remembers. She’s a beautiful, grown woman, and if he’s going to keep his head clear to catch her stalker, he’s going to have to figure out how to keep his hands off her…

Though I read a lot of romance, the other genres that probably most proliferate my shelves are anything suspense-related. Mystery, thriller, true crime…I like solving puzzles and getting involved in the thrill of the chase as much as I like getting embroiled in relationships and emotions. I tend not to buy a lot of romantic suspense, though, because I rarely find a good balance between the two. Most romance authors want to focus on the love story, often to the detriment of the actual plot. Invariably, that means I’m rarely truly satisfied by the suspense angles of these books.

Schroeder’s short novel never really finds that right balance, though it ended up being a satisfying read. The story started out weakly for me. I didn’t like Thea. Yes, things were tense for her, as she’s returning to Crocker after her divorce and an attempt on her life. But her first contacts with people made her seem overly fragile, and yet, other perspectives tried telling me she was strong and spunky. This dichotomous presentation took over half of the book to resolve itself for me, and while I never really believed Thea was as independent as others in the book would want me to think, I definitely liked her by the end of the story.

My feelings for Duncan worked in reverse. I liked him a lot in the beginning, his honor and drive especially, but as time progressed, that interest waned. He goes back and forth on what he’s going to do with Thea constantly. He lost the last woman he was supposed to protect because of his interest in her, and he’s reluctant to have it happen again, but he can’t keep his thoughts regarding Thea pure. His flipflopping wears thin, irritatingly so. I was relieved that I actually liked Thea more at that point, because if my opinion of both of them had disintegrated to that degree, I probably wouldn’t have finished the book.

The suspense spins from the murder of Thea’s mother when she was young. Over the years, Thea has received the occasional letter from an unknown admirer, and they’ve followed her all the way back to Crocker. Her ex-husband never took them seriously, even saying Thea needed professional help since he thought she was making them up to get attention. Duncan takes it all far more seriously, especially since women matching Thea’s description have been showing up dead for several months. The action is fairly constant, tightening in growing suspense, but I was disappointed that I deduced who the killer was almost immediately. I wanted to be wrong. It would have been nice to be surprised. But at least the action kept me intrigued, and my growing need to see Thea get what she wanted and have a happy life invested me in the romance. I was particularly glad to see her stand up for herself to her jerk of an ex-husband. The spine she showed there went a long way.

Readers who don’t read as much suspense might not have the problems with predictability I had. By the time the story ended, the only thing that mattered to me was the happy ending. I got it. More, I was pleased with it. When it comes to romance, it’s hard to ask for much more.


7/10 – A pedantic start, and I guessed the killer almost immediately, but picked up steam as the story progressed


6/10 – The back and forth of want her/can’t have her got old


7/10 – I thought her annoyingly fragile at first, like I was being told she was spunky rather than shown, but she grew on me by the end of the story

Entertainment value

7/10 – The action is fairly constant, and there was no mystery to me at all about who the killer was, but in spite of a rocky start, I came to need these two to work out their problems

World building

6/10 – Surprisingly thin, considering it’s supposed to be suspense



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