Jayne Ann Krentz
Putnam Adult / January 7, 2014 / $26.95 print, $10.99 digital
It’s been thirteen years since Lucy Sheridan was in Summer River. The last time she visited her aunt Sara there, as a teenager, she’d been sent home suddenly after being dragged out of a wild party—by the guy she had a crush on, just to make it more embarrassing. Obviously Mason Fletcher—only a few years older but somehow a lot more of a grown-up—was the overprotective type who thought he had to come to her rescue.
Now, returning after her aunt’s fatal car accident, Lucy is learning there was more to the story than she realized at the time. Mason had saved her from a very nasty crime that night—and soon afterward, Tristan, the cold-blooded rich kid who’d targeted her, disappeared mysteriously, his body never found.
A lot has changed in thirteen years. Lucy now works for a private investigation firm as a forensic genealogist, while Mason has quit the police force to run a successful security firm with his brother—though he still knows his way around a wrench when he fills in at his uncle’s local hardware store. Even Summer River has changed, from a sleepy farm town into a trendy upscale spot in California’s wine country. But Mason is still a protector at heart, a serious (and seriously attractive) man. And when he and Lucy make a shocking discovery inside Sara’s house, and some of Tristan’s old friends start acting suspicious, Mason’s quietly fierce instincts kick into gear. He saved Lucy once, and he’ll save her again. But this time, she insists on playing a role in her own rescue . . .
Jayne Ann Krentz's River Road is Kretnz at her best and most distinctive. After writing romance for thirty years, Ms. Krentz definitely has a signature style, from obvious foreshadowing to red herrings. Plus when you open a Jayne Ann Krentz book, you just know that the heroine is going to be strongly independent:
Mason’s brows scrunched together in a wary expression. “You look mad.”
“Annoyed. Irritated. But lucky for you. I am not yet mad. You’ve never seen me mad, and it’s probably best that way. But let’s get something straight here. You are not my personal secretary. I’m a big girl now. I can take care of my own business. I do not need anyone to schedule my life and my appointments while I’m in town. Are we very clear on that?”
And the hero is going to honorable, principled and noble:
He stood out in the crowd—at least he stood out to her. It was a good bet that many of the other male guests in the room wielded the kind of power that came with money and social and political connections. But Mason possessed a different kind of power. It wasn’t just physical, she thought. It was the kind of strength that you could depend on at crunch time. The steel in Mason had been infused with old-fashioned virtues such as honor and courage and determination.
Lucy Sheridan had about died of embarrassment when Mason Fletcher pulled her out of a party, with all the A-list kids. Normally she would never have been invited, and to be honest, customarily she never would have gone—she’s not into getting drunk or getting high. Lucy knows that she just not cut out to live on the wild side. But with nothing to do, and with her Aunt Sara and her partner, Mary, out of town, she accepts Jillian Benson’s invitation to Tristan Brinker’s and Quinn Colfax’s party at an abandoned, dilapidated barn.
What Lucy doesn't know was that she was Tristan Brinker’s target that night. He had plans to drug her, then film her being raped, and then post it online. Mason got wind of that, and that is why he pulled her out of the party. He never told her how much danger she was in, but he did inform her Aunt Sara. Ironically, the morning after the party Brinker was seen leaving town, but never was heard from again.
Lucy never returned to Summer River, not that she didn’t want to do so, but Aunt Sara was insistent that none of the family visit her. Thirteen years later, both Sara and Mary are killed in a car accident. Now Lucy must return to Summer River to settle their estate. She isn’t planning on staying long, but she is surprised to find how run down Sara and Mary’s home is. And why did they wall up the fire place in the living room?
“I want to restore the fireplace to its original condition. It really was beautiful.”
“I remember it,” Mason said. “There was a lot of nice stonework around it. You don’t see good craftsmanship like that anymore.”
“Unfortunately, Aunt Sara covered the entire front of the fireplace with tile.
“Huh. Wonder why?”
“I’m not sure. She never mentioned it, so when I walked into the house yesterday I was surprised to see what she had done. I do remember that she complained from time to time. She said the fireplace sucked up almost as much heat as it put out. But she loved to sit in front of the fire in the evenings and read.”
“She probably just got tired of hauling firewood,” Mason said. “Can’t blame her.”
“No, but I wish she hadn’t done such a poor job of putting in the tiles. The original fireplace would have been a huge selling point. Now it’s a giant negative. It’s the first thing you see when you walk into the house, and it’s ugly. She must have done the job herself.”
“Typical DIY disaster, huh?”
Mason offers to remove the tiles, although not in the most diplomatic way:
“Tell you what, why don’t I drop by after work and take a look at it? I’ll bring some tools with me. Maybe I can take care of those tiles for you this evening and save you a few bucks.”
The offer let her openmouthed for a beat, and then for some inexplicable reason her pulse kicked up. It took her a few seconds to pull herself together.
“That’s very nice of you,” she said suddenly cautious.
“No trouble. It’s not like I’ve got anything else to do this evening.”
“I see.” She gave him a chilly smile. It was always good to know where one fit into a man’s list of priorities.
Mason did not notice the ice in her smile. “Why don’t I drop by around five-thirty? Does that work for you?”
Cocktail hour. Interesting. She tried and failed to suppress the whisper of anticipation that sparkled through her.
“That will be fine,” she said smoothly. “It’s not like I’ve got anything else to do tonight either.”
If you are thinking what I was thinking then you are obviously right. Like creepy music in the background of your favorite menacing scene, Ms. Krentz sets up the stage for the ominous find. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Lucy now questions if her aunt’s death was truly accidental. As a forensic genealogist, she knows that most crimes are motivated by money or revenge. Did someone figure out what happened? Or is it related to money? Mary Colfax, her aunt’s partner, had shares in the brother’s company, Colfax Inc., which now is in the middle of a major merger.
Lucy feels that she owes it to Sara and Mary to investigate their death. And Mason, Lucy’s guardian angel, is not going to let her start stirring up trouble without watching her back. And of course Lucy doesn’t find that a hardship either:
She got a little thrill from knowing that he was close enough to touch. She had liked it earlier when he had wrapped his powerful hand around her arm to walk her to the car. She had liked it a lot. She liked the scent of him as well.
When he was nineteen to Lucy’s sixteen, Mason just thought of Lucy as someone he needed to look out after, but now Lucy stirs up a whole set of different feelings:
Lucy looked better than good, Mason decided. She looked like exactly what—until now—he didn’t know he needed.
The weird part was that he had not even realized that he had been sleepwalking since the Gilbert Porter case until Lucy showed up. He reminded himself that there was a term for this kind of intense jolt. It was called sexual attraction, and it was merely a force of nature like heat lightning or wildfire—and just as dangerous.
Still, he could not remember the last time he had felt anything this powerful.
River Road is timeless romantic suspense as only Ms. Krentz can write it.
Learn more or order a copy of River Road by Jayne Ann Krentz, available January 7, 2014:
Leigh Davis, Blogger