One Block Empire, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-935560-42-5
Romantic Suspense, 2016
Bitter Legacy is actually more of a police procedural mystery than a typical romantic suspense. No terrorists, no ex-military dudes forming a super covert action hero agency, nothing of that sort – just a cop doing his thing and, during the process, flashing his thing at a cute bloke who may or may not be on the wrong side of the law. The case is the focus here, not the romance, although the romance is still a solid component of the story.
The plot is basically this: Detective Sergeant James Henderson gets to lead his first big case, the murder of a barrister named Maria Curzon-Whyte. He has good instincts, and if he pulls this one off, it’s golden that he’d be promoted to Inspector of the Metropolitan Police. Everyone’s British in this story, by the way, because buggery is more special if everything is enunciated in your most posh boarding school accent. At any rate, his investigations lead him to bump into Ben Morgan, a promiscuous photographer. Ah, but is Ben as trustworthy as he is shagworthy?
Okay, so the plot sounds a lot like every other borderline softcore “thriller” released by TLA Releasing or some other indie gay movie distributor, and in many ways, I do feel that the whole thing is made up of rather familiar plot elements and characters. I manage to correctly deduce Ben’s real identity the moment enough clues come out, but I’m not sure whether this is because I’m a cynical old coot that has read way too many things or the author isn’t as good as keeping her cards to herself as she thinks.
But no matter – this one is a very absorbing, engaging, “No, don’t put the book down – you just can’t!” story even if I sort of know what will come in the later parts of the book. Mind you, police procedurals are not my favorite fiction genre, but this one still manages to reel me in. Our hero James is a compelling protagonist as, while he tries to be by the book and what not, you know how it is with these straight-laced blokes. All those lovely, moody feels just bubbling underneath that calm, even cocky façade of his, waiting to be set loose. I am initially worried when the author talks about how smart and intuitive James is, but as the story progresses, the hero is far from being a big know-it-all that solves the case while winking at the audience and kills the villain with his insufferable smugness. No, far from it – James actually has to work and think, lose his composure and cool now and then, so it’s all good.
Ben is more of the standard “slutty love interest” that is typical of such stories but that’s okay, he’s not the protagonist so he doesn’t have to be all that interesting. He brings out interesting aspects of James’s personality, which is more important in the scheme of things, heh.
As for the rest of the story, almost everything works. The pacing is solid, the author builds considerably good momentum throughout the story without anything in here noticeably sagging, and the last few chapters are actually edge-of-seat gripping stuff despite me knowing what would happen from pretty early on.
Bitter Legacy – which is an appropriate title now that I look back at the story – is a solid story from all aspects. And I don’t normally like this kind of stories! I think the author may just be someone to take note of.