Blurb: Jamie Kincaid knows that she can't move on with her life until she has answers. And she's walking straight into the fire to find them.
A year ago Jamie learned that her beloved cousin, Nate, had been killed. Beaten to death in what police suspect was a drug deal gone wrong, he was found by his childhood friend Dillon Gaynor. Dillon had always been the baddest of the bad boys, leading Nate astray, about Nate's death. He's not about to volunteer any information, and Jaime's only choice is to head to the Wisconsin town where he lives to find the answers for herself.
Jamie shows up unannounced on Dillon's doorstep, only to find that Dillon is as dangerous and seductive as she remembers. But despite his silky hostility, she discovers that she can't leave. Things start disappearing, strange accidents begin to happen and Jamie doesn't know whether Dillon is trying to seduce her or scare her away. And if she gives in to his predatory games, will she lose her soul? Or her life?
But something else — something evil and threatening — is going on. And Dillon knows more that he's saying. Is he the one behind the strange threats. . . or is he Jamie's only chance for survival?
Stuart's heroines often appear to teeter just on the edge of TSTL, appearing to do the things we know are so wrong for them, making poor decisions, putting themselves in harm's way. Yet we always seem to understand the pull they feel to jump into the fray. To launch themselves into the unknown, unable to help themselves; they feel that inescapable urge to be with their hero. And we forgive them for it, because we completely understand it. In this offering from Anne Stuart, Jamie feels that magnetic pull to be with Dillon.
I found myself thinking that she had to know how dumb it was to keep going back into such a deadly situation. Yet back she went. I found myself forgiving the TSTL tendency of this girl who never got the chance to grow into her womanhood, because I, too, felt Dillon's magnetism. Not just his bad-boy side, but the clues that Stuart drops give us insight into his good-boy draw as well, and it is so beautiful. I was in love with this boy-man in the flashbacks very early on. I continued to fall deeper with this man who fought for his hard-won sobriety, and carried the picture of a lost never-to-be love in his wallet, but who seemingly carried no guilt over sending his closest friend to his death.
Stuart once again paints a dark, dreary setting, both the physical setting in a run-down garage and the emotional setting; the hero and heroine have a shared adolescence that haunts them both. A bad decision made on a wild teenage night forever changes the course of their lives. Much of the story is told in flashback and feeds us information about each of the characters in little snippets - just enough at a time to paint a graphic picture of each person in such vivid detail that you sense where each is going, what each will do with their life, and where the story will ultimately end.
As so often occurs in romances, our hero feels the need to punish himself for his past actions, and the heroine is slighted by an unfeeling parent who favors another undeserving child instead. However, because this is an Anne Stuart, the hero comes off as unrepentant and merciless and the heroine has full knowledge of the favoritism - acknowledges it, accepts it, and is therefore not weakened by it.
Yet, the ending is still surprising, and completely perfect for their story. I was held in thrall as I watched Jamie come to the realization that Dillon had loved her for all those years. I wept when I realized all that Dillon had given up by trying, too late, to protect Jamie. And when the deep betrayal by a loved one is revealed to them both, it is heart-wrenching.
I loved this book. Finished it in just a few hours. Ignored everyone and everything in order to finish it. The deep and abiding love that Dillon never lost for Jamie over the 12-year span this book covers made me want to grab my own husband and hold on tight (of course, doesn't everything? *g*). That love is so precious and is not to be sqandered or taken lightly is a lesson that both hero and heroine must learn, and it is one for which I appreciated the reminder. Ahhh, as Jen so ably pointed out, there is nothing like a Stuart hero, is there? In her so eloquent words... fucking fabulous book. Moving on to Cold as Ice now.