Harlequin Escape Publishing
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Almost four years ago, Jordan Windcroft made a choice and took the rap for a friend. She was lucky – she got off with probation and she has been living for the day when her probation time is over. It’s almost here and Jordan just has to make it through the cattle sales that are coming up, coinciding with the end of her allocated time. She needs to sell her stock for top prices so that she can pay off her mortgage and keep her beloved farm. It was her parent’s property and Jordan has been running it for years, just managing to keep her head above water. She might be in debt but it’s the prettiest parcel of land in the valley and it’s worth a lot. There are people who would love to see her lose it….or take it from her.
Detective Senior Sargeant Reid Easton arrives in town posing as Reid Tallon, Jordan’s probation officer. Reid has been working for years to smash a drug ring and the only lead he has brings him to this small town and Jordan and her arrest some years earlier. Reid and Jordan immediately clash: Reid expects punctuality and strict adherence to the rules from Jordan and Jordan is one woman single handedly running a farm. She’s used to her parole officer popping out and checking on her when he got a free moment and there are times she can’t drop everything and dash into town to meet with Reid. Her very livelihood depends on her getting those cattle perfectly fit and in exceptional condition so she can get the money, pay her debts and breathe a sigh of relief.
Reid is the last thing Jordan wants or needs and Jordan is definitely not what Reid expected. She’s his best lead to a drug ring they know is operating and he wants to get it shut down quickly. He finds himself getting more and more mixed up with Jordan and her complicated life and it isn’t long before he begins to suspect that something is not at all right about those charges four years ago. Both of them have goals that they need to accomplish, no matter that it might be love. But when it seems as though Jordan might be much more mixed up in his case than he initially expected, Reid can’t help but feel betrayed. But is it what it looks like? Or is Jordan in more danger than anyone realised?
I’ve always felt that romantic suspense novels are tricky to get right. There’s a need for balance between the budding romance and the element of danger that runs through the story. I think that Deadly Secrets is deceptively subtle. Most of the first half of the book is geared towards one particular outcome but it’s not until the latter part of the book that the true danger is really revealed and it’s done in a very, very clever way. I remember getting so very irritated reading this book because something happens to Jordan that leads to just about everyone in her life turning away from her. They believe that she’s done something, kept something from them and it was so frustrating because the reader is aware of what has truly happened. I had to take a step back and look at it from the point of view of someone other than Jordan, examine it in a way that they could, taking in only what they knew. Jordan begins to spiral into a very dangerous place fueled by paranoia, fear and despair and it makes it seem so very likely that what Reid and the others feel is true. It’s quite masterfully done and Jordan’s isolation and disintegrating mental state as she faces the danger that no one believes exists, on her own, is brilliant.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here as that’s towards the end of the book! The first part is concerned with Reid showing up in town, believing that Jordan could possibly lead him to the outcome he seeks. The two of them clash and although some of their interactions are sexually charged and quite fun, Reid can be a little inconsistent. At times he’s playful and others, like he has a stick in a very uncomfortable place. I originally attributed this to being undercover and being driven, desperate to smash this drug ring. However I’m not entirely sure that it wasn’t just a little bit of poor choice of words….such as his comment about “temperamental females” which I found a bit pointless. He is utterly brutal when he believes that Jordan has been hiding something from him and I found his reaction a bit cruel. He has ‘issues’ surrounding what he thinks Jordan is guilty of but he’s terribly judgemental and dismissive of her protests. It makes little sense for Jordan to have done what they assumed – she was supposed to be, according to them, hiding it. So why would she do it when there were several people around? I’m aware that people can become quite adept at hiding things but one of the people that turned on her had known her for years and years, saw her almost every day. She was somewhat like a daughter to him – she had done something amazing for him. I felt quite bitter at his treatment of her, even more than Reid’s and I felt like if I were Jordan, I would find it very hard to forgive that. I think Jordan gets over it pretty quickly!
Deadly Secrets is a hard book to really rate because there were times when it made me want to throw my Kindle at the wall because I was getting so frustrated with some of the characters – including Jordan because the way in which she handled some things only made her situation regarding other people much worse. She pretty much started to actually act the sort of paranoid, crazy, drug-induced psychosis behaviour that everyone thought was the reason for her behaviour. But I attribute that to good writing, that it had me invested in Jordan and incensed at the way people didn’t attempt to look beyond what they saw as the obvious. Jordan is the standout in the book, she’s tough and smart and works backbreakingly hard, always with her goals in sight. She doesn’t let herself be intimidated by anyone, Reid had his moments but there were others where he really didn’t shine. But the writing makes up for it. The story is very well done.
Book #114 of 2014
Deadly Secrets is book #41 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014