by Celia Ashley, contemporary (2007)
New Concepts Publishing, $4.99, ISBN N/A
Poor Caleb Hunter. The hero of Celia Ashley's Dark Tides knows his name and more or less has an idea how old he is (35 or 36), but he has no memory of his past. He came to consciousness realizing that he was naked on a beach, apparently having been washed ashore somewhere in New England from the sea. He has this vague impression that someone tried to kill him in the past, which probably explains his current situation, but that's about it.
Our heroine Megan Donovan lost her husband (the ship he was on did a Titanic) a year ago on the very day when Caleb shows up on the beach near her home so she doesn't know what to think. She is certain that she dreamed of this man showing up on the beach the night before. She usually dreamed of her husband showing up on the beach but this time around she dreamed of him instead. Is there some kind of message in her dream? What is going on here? And who is Caleb? Still, she thinks it's only right that she takes him in to check the wound on his head when she realizes that he's not some serial killer on the prowl before sending him to a doctor in the town. Things don't always end up as simple as she'd like them to be, of course, especially when Caleb may or may not be connected to her late husband and Meg suspects that Matt, her late husband, was doing something shady when he died.
Wow. All I can say about Dark Tides without giving away too many things is that it has me at the edge of my seat. Ms Ashley does a very good job in setting up the mystery that is Caleb that, despite me trying to reassure myself that this is a romance and therefore Caleb cannot be the bad guy, I am soon so caught up in the story that I am not sure whether Caleb is the hero or not.
The story takes place over a very short period of time and under any other circumstances I'd find the romance hard to believe. In this story though, I find it makes sense in a way for Megan to hop into bed with Caleb since it is the anniversary of Matt's death and she's feeling all kinds of blues about being lonely and all. Megan and Caleb make interesting main characters because they are likable - and in Megan's case, flawed without being irritating - and therefore it's easy to get caught up in this story. Their romance is actually the least interesting aspect of the story. In fact, I am not to keen on the introduction of a contrived pregnancy twist. It is the well-written mystery of Caleb's identity that is very enjoyable to read.
I can't vouch for the romance but on the whole Dark Tides a most entertaining romantic suspense tale that relies on old-fashioned and intimate build-up of suspense to boiling point instead of body count and crazed serial killers on the loose.
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