Flirting With Disaster (Jackson: Girls’ Night Out #2)
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Eccentric artist Isabelle West lives in a very secluded cabin deep in Wyoming. That’s the way she prefers it, being uncomfortable around lots of people for many reasons. Isabelle has mostly kept to herself, checking in with one of her remote neighbours and indulging in the odd girls night with two female friends. When US Marshal Tom Duncan knocks on her door, she is immediately panicked and suspicious.
Tom Duncan is in charge of an operation to protect a judge who has been threatened. He’s giving a warning to the cabins neighbouring the judge’s remote property as a warning, that they need to be on the look out just in case they see anyone around that shouldn’t be there. His radar immediately pings with the strange behaviour of Isabelle West. She’s definitely not who she says she is and although it doesn’t seem like she’s on the wanted list, she’s definitely living under an assumed identity. Which is illegal.
Isabelle is a free spirit with a lot of secrets, Tom is charged to serve and protect, living his life by strict rules and procedures. And yet they are drawn together by a powerful attraction that neither of them can ignore, despite the dangers it poses for both of them, both personally and professionally.
I’ve read most of Victoria Dahl’s Jackson Hole series but I did miss the Girls’ Night Out novella and book. I like the way that she’s not afraid to make her heroines sexually confident – most are fully in touch with their sexuality. There are no shrinking virgins here. Likewise, there are males that are not alphas and Tom Duncan falls into this category. Despite being a hotshot US Marshal with a badge and a gun, he’s definitely not the sort of pushy alpha male I’m used to reading in that sort of role. In fact he blushes. A lot. And Isabelle likes making him blush.
Isabelle has been on the run and hiding for years. She’s been lucky – she’s been able to make a living in isolation. She’s an artist who paints pictures for medical textbooks, so not exactly your average sort of painting. When she’s in one of her bursts of inspiration and creativity, she can be AWOL for days, not answering her phone and barely remembering to eat and sleep. Isabelle has some very deep secrets – secrets that she hasn’t told anyone. She’s always looking over her shoulder, always wondering if she’s going to be found out and what will happen if she is. When Tom first knocks on her door, she thinks he’s there for her and even when he states his business, part of her still thinks he’s lying or fabricating some sort of story about the nearby judge being in danger in order to get close to her. Even though it would be very unwise for Isabelle to get involved with Tom, given his employment is law enforcement and Isabelle is running from law enforcement, she can’t really stop herself. She consoles herself by thinking that it’s just a bit of fun. It’s been a while, her solitary lifestyle doesn’t lend itself to developing romantic attachments. Tom is scratching an itch, so to speak.
Isabelle’s behaviour has triggered Tom’s ‘lying’ radar. He’s pretty sure that Isabelle is hiding something, at first he assumes she’s on some sort of wanted list or has an outstanding arrest warrant. She doesn’t, but he discovers that her false identity isn’t really that good, it doesn’t stand up prior to the time that she acquired it. That makes him incredibly determined to get to the bottom of what it is that she’s hiding. Unfortunately his digging around trips a flag and it seems that there are people very interested in the very thing he’s been trying to find out.
All the while I was reading this book, I was questioning why Isabelle chose Tom to break her drought so to speak. Yes the chemistry is there – it’s there in spades. But she’s incredibly protective of the life she’s managed to make for herself and it’s pretty likely that Tom, with his killer instincts and bloodhound nose, is going to notice something and go digging. I’m really glad that Dahl addressed this issue and had Isabelle herself address it – why she picked the US Marshal. I liked the reasoning, I thought that after her time spent hiding, spend protecting herself, it would actually be pretty plausible. I liked both characters together and separately and thought they balanced each other out really well. Isabelle is very prickly, incredibly solitary. She doesn’t allow herself to get close to people, or tries really hard not to although she has developed a few friendships. Tom is rather more open, he’s someone who wants to help people and he has good working relationships with his team. He knows that he’s risking his job to help Isabelle, more and more this becomes obvious but he continues doing it anyway. He wants Isabelle to be able to get the best result and I think he only trusts himself to help her properly. The thing is Isabelle feels that Tom has betrayed her deeply and used her as well. She has to get over those feelings, or get past them in order for them to see if they have any sort of a chance at a life together, because it’s become much more than scratching an itch for both of them. It was always more than that, but Isabelle was pretty stubborn and Tom wanted to help which blurred the professional and personal lines a lot.
I enjoyed this one – really need to go back and read what I’ve missed with this sort of spin off from the original Jackson Hole novels. My copy of this book had a large chunk of the first novella at the end and I was really getting into the story when it ended!
Book #9 of 2015