Book 3 of The Last Stand series
Another day, another book, another Romantic Suspense devoured too quickly. I’m enjoying these Brenda Novak page-turners, and I think this third book is the one I like most so far (if only because the male protagonist isn’t a neanderthal like the first two and so, by default, despite some of his flaws, I like him the most). However, I can’t help but be slightly bothered by the all-too formulaic outline of the romance and the suspense. While the story is a different one, all the plot devices and all the twists and all the secrets are fairly predictable to a ‘T’.
As the story goes:
Twelve years prior to the present storyline, Sheridan Kohl was shot and left for dead at the age of sixteen. The same man shot and killed Jason Wyatt who was with her at the time. Afterwards, she and her family left their hometown and, presently, Sheridan is part of The Last Stand (as we already know). After receiving contact from a police officer in Whiterock about new evidence to the old case, Sheridan is determined to return to her hometown and investigate the case.
But (as the very first chapter begins) the moment she sets foot in Whiterock, she is attacked and almost buried, fortunate to be saved by Cain Granger. Cain is the type who has a good reputation and a bad reputation, though his bad reputation is what people focus on as an aloof, womanizer… despite the fact that he hasn’t slept with a woman in three years. People like him because he’s good with animals, has his life together, and is friendly enough. People gossip about him because of his teenage rebel years of being a trouble-maker and a womanizer. At the present time line, he is the police force’s favorite suspect for the murder of Jason Wyatt (also his stepbrother) twelve years ago just because the rifle found in his old abandoned cabin matched ballistics for the weapon that shot and killed Jason--a rifle that was lost twelve years ago and recently found in an abandoned building.
On top of that, Sheridan’s almost dead form was discovered by him on his property.
Basically, the murderer has a hard-on for framing Cain for every sin ever perpetuated since the dawn of time.
And then the infamous, long-sought murderer from twelve years ago, as well as the man who starts off the very first chapter trying to bury Sheridan, all but tells you that he’s the one. Yeah. That one was pretty obvious.
Aside from a few minor background characters, the brief appearance of Skye, and our resident main couple… I found that I really just didn’t like the rest of the people in this small town of Whiterock. The police are a joke (which I have a feeling they were made out to be on purpose, being unable to handle a homicide or cases as such and being unable to remain partial and professional); I’d hate to be caught in a small town where everyone knows your business and is already biased enough to never give you a fair chance at trial if you’re ever being suspected of something. I mean, the entire case wasn’t so much an investigation as it was a witch-hunt--they were looking for reasons to blame Cain for all the violence and all the troubles rather than trying to sift out the truth and find a real suspect.
On top of that, all of these people involved in the case: police officers, related family from the murder twelve years prior… They all set out to crucify Sheridan as a slut just because she had sex once, when she sixteen years old, and then kept it a secret. Aside from never having mentioned that she’d had sex with Cain, her sex life really had nothing to do with the ongoing investigation. And I wasn’t aware that sleeping with someone was supposed to be publicly broadcast to everyone and their mothers. The last I checked, when you have overly religious parents, you tend to shy away from telling the world about something you know that they would disapprove of; and then she got shot a month later and almost died… so I’m pretty sure the entire “I had sex with a guy who has a bad reputation” thing should have been the last of everyone’s worries.
But what really got me a little irritated with the situation was that she wouldn’t stand up for herself. So what if she had sex, once, when she was sixteen? So what if she’s going to be having sex with him again now that she’s twenty-eight? Why does it give the officers on the police force the right to make her out to be a tramp? I’m sure if she’d been sleeping with someone who wasn’t being forced into a prime suspect for the murder twelve years ago, no one would even be saying such things, but the fact is, being sexually active is no one’s business except for her own. Being sexually active doesn’t give other people the right to make you feel bad about anything.
These “police officers” are acting like immature children rather than professional law enforcement. It’s true that human beings will have their opinions, but how are we to trust our local protectors if they purposely discomfit you for no reason rather than because of a personal vendetta? The “adults” in this book don’t seem to be able to deal with Sheridan’s “Big Secret Scandal” without resorting to name-calling and unmerited sneering. What’s up with all of that “She deserves to be humiliated”, or “She asked to be attacked”, or the “She should have just died out there” bullcrap?
Victimizing the victim? Slut-shaming? These people!
Of course, I’m glad that the tone of which this subject matter is written in a way that shows that the author, herself, perceives this kind of behavior to be crass and terrible and uncalled for. So it’s really the characters that were riling me up and not so much the author.
Kudos to you, Ms. Novak.
I’m happy that Cain stood up for Sheridan, and I was also exuberant that Skye had no problem being brutally honest in Sheridan’s defense against her ex-boyfriend (from high school) who wouldn't stop doing the "woe is me" dance while he bullied Sheridan about her relationship with Cain:
”Getting dumped and getting dumped on are two different things.” Skye looked directly at him. “She liked someone else, so she broke up with you. She had the right. Get over it.”
“In my line of work, I’ve seen some real suffering.”
Might I also point out that Sheridan was only sixteen at the time, so I don’t know why her ex-boyfriend thought it was okay for him to join in the slut-shaming just because his ego was bruised now that they’re adults.
Dude, you were getting engaged; you were in love with another woman now; move the fuck on!
But why did Sheridan just stand there and take all the insult like she really was to blame for all the problems. She didn’t ask to get shot; she didn’t ask to watch someone else get murdered; and her sex life is nobody’s business but her own. But she kept letting people walk all over her and kept apologizing for something that wasn’t her fault.
As a victims’ advocate, she really needs to get in there and coach herself.
Heck of a place, no?
And while we’re on the subject of characters: Cain’s ex-wife, Amy is one hell of a scary, creepy stalker chick and needed to get herself some help. To think that she’s part of the police force, spends her free time stalking Cain almost every night, and investigates a case with personal biases rather than professionalism… Yeesh!
In spite of all the issues I’ve addressed above, I still managed to enjoy this book. It’s strange how that happens. Sheridan was a nice character, but I needed her to grow more of a backbone--it kind of irked me when she kept pushing Skye to leave. Aside from some TSTL tendencies, Skye is actually pretty damn good at defending herself and she’s not a bad investigator either and probably would have managed to help Sheridan crack the case. Her appearance in the storyline seemed only to be there to satisfy a “previous characters I remember” quota, which was a little disappointing.
I liked Cain almost as soon as he presented in the book. He owns three dogs that he commands with ease, takes care of small injured creatures and nurses them back to health, works with wildlife, and owns a vet clinic. Just that little description makes him kind of swoon-worthy. He’s like the ultimate tough-guy with a soft-heart type. And as I stated earlier, he’s not the neanderthal with caveman ideals that the previous two books presented us with. He was sweet with Sheridan and took care of her really well, but didn’t treat her as if she was a defenseless little woman.
The romance was formulaic, but also a little disjointed and strange… but I’ll take it. It wasn’t too bad.
Overall: This was another fast-paced page-turner from Brenda Novak, as expected. Maybe I like this book more than the previous two if only because I liked Cain a lot.
As far as this series goes, Jasmine is my favorite Last Stand gal; I have a soft spot for profilers just because I think the profession is intriguing.