Book 2 of The Last Stand series
I obviously do not have an adequate respect for proper sleeping rituals. I’m obviously very good at convincing myself that “It won’t take long to finish the rest of this book.”
Jasmine Stratford’s younger sister was abducted sixteen years ago and never found; Jasmine was barely a pre-teen at the time. The incident tore her family up and forced Jasmine away from her former loving and warm home, wandering until she managed to get her life back together. And so now she’s a victims’ advocate for The Last Stand as well as an occasional consultant for law enforcement using “unconventional methods” to help investigations--Jasmine is a psychic who often gets visions or “feelings” that help her pinpoint where victims can be found or what may have occurred at a crime scene.
Sixteen years into the present, Jasmine receives a “gift” from the man who had taken her sister containing Kimberly’s bracelet and a note that simply says: “Stop Me” written in blood. This new token leads her to New Orleans for the Christmas holiday where she finds Romain Fornier, a man who had suffered his own tragedy, with the belief that he may be able to help her find her sister. Romain’s own daughter had been taken from him and then murdered, the culprit tried and acquitted. In a haze of angry vigilantism, Romain took the law into his own hands and shot the killer, putting himself behind bars for two years.
But now as Jasmine begins to dig up the past, she and Romain unearth new secrets about the abductions of their loved ones. On top of realizing that Romain may have killed the wrong man, a deeper web of darkness unravels which ultimately puts Jasmine’s life in danger.
So we’ve got the obligatory “Meet-Not-So-Cute” since this is a Romantic Suspense and the main couple obviously starts lusting after each other immediately. Then we’ve got the obligatory “Putting the Not-Quite-Damsel-in-Distress’s Life in Danger via Reckless Behavior”; I like Jasmine because she’s spunky, but she’s got a bit of a TSTL complex… but at least she knows what she’s getting herself into whenever she does it. On top of that we’ve got the obligatory Romantic Angst of the “I’ve got a messed up life and can’t afford to fall in love” variety wherein the couple keeps pushing back and forth and back and forth until they sex each other into admissions of love. Then the final hour gives us the obligatory “Damsel Sort of in Distress” scene wherein the main couple finally cement their “We can’t lose each other” realizations.
Oh, but Romain is the Double Standard Caveman variety of male heroism--much like David from the first book, and I don’t much appreciate that very well.
That is the romance in a nutshell--the usual stuff of Romantic Suspense novels.
Surprisingly, despite the formulaic-ness of the entire flow, I’m not too bothered by it because Brenda Novak’s writing style, story progression, central plot, and sense of suspense continues to draw my attention. You seriously need to take days off from work just to read these books; I really can’t seem to put one down once I get started.
The twist of the criminal plot was fairly predictable once the first phone call was made to the ultimate “villain” known as Peccavi--and I also kind of sort of figured out who Peccavi really was with a bit of a groan. But at least it keeps you on your toes as to how far this crime organization stretches from person to person, what kinds of secrets everyone else related to this situation is hiding, and how the entire scenario will play out. I was a bit disappointed that Kimberly Stratford’s abductor (and Adele Fornier’s murderer) was revealed so quickly, but there was enough other material to keep me satisfied.
Unfortunately, talking about the deeper darkness of the crimes committed in this book will probably give too many things away, so I’m stumped on what else to add.
I guess I’m reeling for a good murder mystery, and while these suspenses are page-turners, I always get that same sense of disappointment whenever certain reveals happen before the halfway point of the book.
Final thoughts: This is definitely another page-turner, but without the crime thriller propelling things, the book might have fallen short. Nonetheless, I really liked Jasmine--despite the fact that some of her actions might have been construed by others as TSTL, I think she does quite well for herself as a woman investigating the disappearance of her little sister sixteen years ago. She may be my favorite of the three Last Stand gals, if only for a bunch of superficial reasons though--she’s multicultural, she’s psychic, and I have a soft-spot for profilers.