“I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, least of all myself”
- Book: Justified Burden
- Location: Montana
- Author: Lori Matthews
Okay! So I’ll admit right off, that I don’t tend to read these ‘happy ever after’ romantic/suspense novels on too regular a basis, however they are great way to ratchet down the tension between the more hardcore psychological thrillers which make up a large percentage of my reading schedule. I also know just how relaxing Lori’s writing style is and how she can add her own flavour to any storyline. This book is one of two which Lori has written, since she has taken up the mantle of contributing to the ‘Brotherhood Protectors’ series, which was originally begun by her fellow author Ella James and has now been expanded as the ‘Brotherhood Protectors World’, with books being added to the series by many other authors.
The first couple of pages set the scene and then the tension begins to build straightaway; as we head into a storyline full of disturbing intrigue and gripping tension; towards an ending of love, new beginnings and a closure to events which hopefully belong firmly in the past.
Two new arrivals to this small Montana town, Rhys, a personal protection specialist and Scarlett, an interior designer, find themselves front and centre of the action, not through any fault of their own, but simply by virtue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They bring with them a youthful breath of fresh air, but each are running from their own personal hidden sorrows and past life-changing events, which they are trying to come to terms with and get into some kind of perspective, as they strive to move on with their lives. Romance is the last thing either of them have on their agendas. Nor do either of them want to be drawn into a murder most cold-blooded and foul, leaving them at the mercy of a vengeful stalker who will stop at nothing to find what they seek so avidly, and who is more than desperate enough to wreak revenge on those who might stand in their way.
For such a small town, it seemed that there were plenty of people with hidden agendas and a past they would have much rather had remained in the shadows, so my suspect list started off with several names on it, then one by one I ruled them out of my enquiries, until just three names remained. Then, by some skilful manipulation of the narration and dialogue, several red herrings and some added twists in the storyline, Lori successfully threw me off the scent, until almost the very last minute, when I managed to work things out (okay, I guessed!), just ahead of the big reveal. There also appeared to be an inordinate amount of law enforcement, with invisible lines having been drawn down the town between the different forces, which brooked no interference between one and the other. With embezzlement, missing millions, murder, attempted murder, stalking and criminal damage to deal with, it didn’t take much to imagine them all falling over one another for a piece of the action, which they did, which wasn’t pretty and didn’t make for a cohesive plan of action, or any real sense of purpose.
With something to prove to himself and his prospective new employers, Rhys and the Brotherhood Protectors, set about keeping an increasingly fragile Scarlett safe and out of harms way, as the perpetrator becomes more and more desperate and dangerous. This fast-paced, multi-layered story, is rich in atmosphere, with a finely balanced and compelling blend of an intriguing murder/mystery and some racy, sultry, erotic romance. As the suspense heightens, the tension ramps up and ever increasingly dangerous events draw Rhys and Scarlett further into their clutches, the couple are literally thrown together, so it isn’t difficult to work out, that the action between them personally, is only heading in one direction, the bedroom!
The visually descriptive, sometimes dynamic and rich, often compassionate and sentimental, narrative and dialogue, is fluid and compelling. This escape into story, is told with heart, passion and sometimes the odd flash of humour, by an author who knows exactly where she is going with her storyline and how she needs her characters to react and empathise.
Lori, really focussed on achieving a good mix of slightly quirky characters, with several of them who play small cameo roles in the story, kept suitably undefined as they are rather on the sidelines of the action. However the main characters are all multi-faceted, engaging, well defined and developed, if also emotionally complex and vulnerable. There was some good synergy and dynamics between them and I found them more than easy to connect with and invest in.
A perfectly pitched blend makes Justified Burden as chilling as it is erotic and sexy, drawing me in from that very first page with a relentless pacing and emotional depth that resonated long after the cover was closed – and remember… “The female of the species is definitely more deadly than the male, in Canyon Springs”