Small Town Storm
Elise K. Ackers
Destiny Romance (Penguin Books Aus)
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Erica Lawrence has returned to her home town in country Victoria, nineteen years after a shocking crime almost killed her. She’s been searching for answers about it her whole life and with her father never volunteering any information and having been absent most of her life, she’s decided that the answers must lie in the place where it all happened.
Now everyone knows she has returned and the whispers have started. And then people start dying. And all of them are connected in some way, to Erica. Many of the townspeople are suspicious, but not Jordan Hill. The local police officer and Erica’s childhood best friend has his own issues stemming from that night when he and Erica were separated, kicking and screaming but he knows she’s not a murderer. However, it’s likely that the murders are being deliberately organised and arranged to cause Erica the most amount of distress and to frighten her. And it seems likely that she’ll be the final target.
The old childhood connection between Jordan and Erica hasn’t gone anywhere. Beneath the hurts and the disappointments and the issues about what happened when Erica was a child and their subsequent separation, is the same bond that’s always been there and it’s maturing into something else, a grown up kind of connection and attraction. Jordan would do anything to protect her and give her the happiness she deserves….but to do that, he first has to catch a killer. Before they get to Erica.
Small Town Storm is a romantic suspense release from Destiny Romance. Originally released in eBook format, the publisher has chosen to release some titles as paperbacks and this one is a good choice. It’s a read that delivers far more than it promises and proves that Ackers has a real understanding of how to build tension and sustain it over a period of time. She delivers us a very damaged heroine, who is still crippled by issues arising from the crime that was committed upon her when she was just a child – it was a long crime and it caused her to suffer but the psychological damage has been far more long lasting than the physical. It also has an effect on her social life because she cannot be upfront about her peculiarities and it severely limits the amount of invitations she is able to accept and the type of social get together she feels comfortable in.
When they were children, Erica and Jordan were almost inseparable and he’s never forgotten her. When he never heard from her, he thought she was dead and when she turns up alive and well in Olinda and oblivious as to how her lack of communication towards him has affected him, he’s furious. And he lets her know it. To be honest, Jordan drove me up the wall at the beginning of the novel – he was borderline bullying towards Erica and finally someone lets him have it about how over the years, he’s twisted everything that happened into being all about him. After he is made to see that realisation, he calmed down a lot and he was more likable and I could relax into reading their interactions without getting frustrated at him and wanting Erica to tell him off. I think their childhood bond is shown as being very strong but it’s been close to twenty years since they saw each other and it’s expected that there should be some issues with getting to know each other again and catching up on each other’s lives. Jordan has a deadset hero complex (has had one ever since he was a child, possibly because of Erica to begin with) and he at times means well, but he goes in way too over the top and too hard and can’t seem to read Erica’s cues when she’s uncomfortable or really unhappy with what he’s doing or saying. He wants to help her but he can’t magically fix her issues just by telling her that he can and he needs to come to understand that. Thankfully, he does.
Romantic suspense is a very difficult genre I think, because you have to balance a lot of things in order to please the reader. You need to give the romance time to simmer and flesh out and you also need to build the suspense, keep the reader guessing and also give the ending credibility. I think Elise Ackers succeeded in several of these very well. As I mentioned earlier, the suspense is well built throughout the novel and each community member that disappeared had me drawn further and further into the story, especially with how well chosen the third victim was. I could believe Erica and Jordan’s feelings for each other, even if they were a bit too intense at times, however I have to say that I wasn’t entirely convinced by the murderer. I also can’t really articulate why either, unless I spoil the ending and a bunch of the plot but it just seemed a little out of nowhere and a bit far fetched for me personally. The reason just felt a little bit (well ok, a lot for me) flimsy and perhaps needed a little more word count to make it seem a bit more credible.
Apart from that, I really enjoyed this book and ended up reading pretty much all of it in one sitting. I found Erica’s issues fascinating, even more so because they couldn’t be cured by the hero telling her he could, which made a lovely change from many other issues in many other romance novels.
Book #316 of 2013
Small Town Storm is book #109 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013