1. Tami Hoag can be a good writer. I can see it in the other two books she's written that I recently read. The story progression isn't absurdly staunched or anything like that. And she can be good with words. Unfortunately, I think she tried WAY too hard to emphasize EVERYTHING in this book. The purple prose is strong with this one, suffocating and deliberate in its plight to squeeze meaning into every scene and every dialogue and every action.
It got tacky.
The only part of the writing I really DID appreciate about this book was the vivid imagery about the bayous. But otherwise, everything else (character descriptions, action descriptions, character dialogue, character monologue...) all just needed to be toned down a notch. Even all the sex scenes were so flowery that I started envisioning rose petals and climbing vines in the background framing our couple as they made passionate love.
2. The story (and the romance, since this is what the book was mainly about) was pretty much Lucky's Lady Redux. Same time, same place, same heroine, same hero, different story, same formula. The only difference is that this one had a murder mystery in the background and the last 50% of the book.
Jack Boudreaux and Laurel Chandler are no different than Lucky and Serena in their personalities, the courting ritual, and their physical appearances (except that Jack may have one-upped Lucky by throwing in a kidnapping offense on top of the spewing of sexual innuendos, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and plain rude arrogance; and playing the self-pity game to the tipping point).
3. The murder mystery is as significant to the story as me sitting in my home listening to the news telecast a serial homicide the next state over. Basically, until we hit the half-point of the book, it HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ME, period. I was almost wondering if the murder mystery even existed anymore.
And also, the killer was obvious from the very moment that he appears in the book and all but tells you that he's the "brilliant predator" he keeps talking about.
The investigative process on this serial killer case was laughable.
4. I wouldn't pay a dime to have Laurel Chandler represent me in court even if I had no other choice. The book keeps alluding to how she's an excellent attorney and has a shining record of great case investigation and whatnot. But she blows one case (because she didn't have enough evidence and all but went public with her cause despite not having enough evidence to make these claims which strikes me as an amateur move for someone hotshot lawyer with a shining record), and then goes crawling into a hidey-hole, never to be seen again in her outstanding career field.
Because she lost ONE case!
Outside of the courtroom, she cannot stand up for herself or her sister. She won't say anything at all when it matters. And half the arguments she starts with a witty retort or a controlled, well-thought out line usually fizzles within seconds and she's left fuming mad and speechless because she can't finish her argument. Instead, someone else has to resort to coming to her rescue (usually Jack with his threats of physical violence, because being a disbarred lawyer and all, that's how we solve ALL our problems).
I was always under the impression that a good lawyer is good with words and can manage to, even if not manipulate a situation verbally in his or her favor, be able to stand up for herself or others and at least leave the debate with some form of dignity. A good lawyer should have the ability to argue a point with facts and fancy words that drive people crazy, without resorting to quiet tantrums or gawking like a dumbfounded goldfish. But Laurel's typical reaction to a confrontation (many of which she was the one to initiate in the book) is simply standing there and fuming.
Also, Laurel is hot and cold. She returns home so she can be pampered and not have to do a thing but relax, but she simmers when her aunt and her sister try to coddle her. She's got her own problems to deal with and doesn't want to do anything remotely close to legal obligations, but she'll butt her nose into others' problems, and when they request, she becomes their legal go-between to help settle their problems (which she does a shit job doing, by the way). She is indignant that Jack is a terrible, annoying, arrogant man, and that she is this pure, innocent, Mother Theresa type who doesn't just sleep with anyone... but ends up having sex with Jack anyway; and on top of that, she can't seem to keep her self-control under check. As with the rest of the confrontations she initiates, she can never seem to win an argument with Jack, but after her first witty retort, he'll smirk at her or say something alluding to sex or sex parts or any kind of sexy times and she is putty and forgets why she's annoyed with him in the first place.
She also seems to become sexually aroused and heated very easily around Jack, which is why she has so much trouble finishing her arguments with him.
And then she slut-shames her own sister.
5. Jack is a self-pitying cry baby who exaggerates his problems. I understand that he's been caught in tragedy and a terrible few years as a hot shot lawyer who went down the wrong road. I get it. But the point didn't need to be reinforced in his monologues repeatedly. Cause I get it. And even though you came across a bad streak when you were hotheaded, there are other issues in life other than your own self-made misery for you to try and care about. Case in point, when Laurel is going through a big heart-breaking loss near the end of the book, rather than being there for her, he chooses to reveal his own past and making the situation all about him. So then Laurel feels bad for him
and tries to console HIM instead.
Jack is a walking double standard because he's allowed to pry into Laurel's past and make remarks about how she needs to forgive herself and move on with life. But when anyone even glances in the direction of his own wounds, he crawls into his own self-made prison and growls at everyone walking by. He's allowed to wallow in his self-pity, but when he comes across Laurel doing it, he makes rude remarks about the pot calling kettle and how she's arrogant to think she can shoulder all the world's responsibility. Then she calls him out on his own assessment, using it to compare his own tragic past and he tells her she's wrong, pushes her out the door, and goes whimpering to his hidey-hole again.
I get that there was a lot of darker content and subject matter in this book. I'm not ragging on it. I just think it could have been handled better. Rather than hammering the point about our character's tragedies every other chapter, how about we move on with the story and try to see our characters into development and a Happily Ever After... or something akin to that. Or not. The point is, we needed to move on with the story after everyone's wallowing in self-pity was re-emphasized for the fifth time--cause otherwise the book just gets depressing.
I'm at the edge of trying to decide whether or not to finish this series. I own the paperback copy of A Thin Dark Line, then went and checked out the first three books from the library so that I could get around to reading A Thin Dark Line, but now I'm having misgivings.