Heat Factor: It’s more focused on the crime drama than on the sexy sex
Character Chemistry: “I’m attracted to you and also we’re going through some intense things.”
Plot: Murder most foul! (Why else would the BAU be in a small town romancing the locals?)
Overall: Pretty satisfying romantic suspense
All of this series was on Kindle Unlimited with audio, so I went on a little binge. I used to watch crime shows all the time, so this was a fun way to get that feeling back for a little while (with romance). If you like your romances to be character and emotion driven, you probably won’t like these so much—the vast majority of the tension and drama comes from the driving need to solve the case before more people (including one of the protagonists, of course) turn up dead. But if you like a good crime drama with twists and turns and serial killers, these were pretty satisfying.
The Devil’s Daughter
Who doesn’t want to read about a small town dealing with a serial killer and a cult in the back yard?
While the cult/crime narrative was not a significant departure from other such stories you might find in genre fiction, I enjoyed that the cult’s religion centered on the Persephone myth. The cult leader had styled herself as Demeter and her daughter as Persephone. Unfortunately, Persephone (that is to say Eden, our protagonist) ran away at 18 to escape the cult, which put a crimp in her mother’s plans. Fortunately, Eden joined the BAU, so when seemingly cult-related murders start to happen in her hometown, she takes some personal time to see if she can help. Regarding the mystery, I would argue that the breadcrumbs were scattered pretty well, because I had an idea but not a certainty of how things would turn out.
Zach, the sheriff, and Eden have a little reasonable forced proximity and a little instant chemistry, though Zach is initially suspicious of Eden. They more knew of each other than knew each other when they were young, so this is not a “we had feelings before and now we get to act on them” sort of story. Zach is definitely a caretaker, constantly ordering his staff to take breaks and eat, and that extends to Eden, about whom he worries on a whole different level because he’s caught feelings. Eden is (not unusually) characterized as a badass who’s unwilling to push pause while in the thick of things, and she doesn’t want Zach to take care of her or to take a minute to consider…a lot. Which is naturally (and again, not unusually) how she ends up in trouble. But she is a very solid badass.
The Hunting Grounds
Killer (hehe) ending for this one, so the serial killer component of the story was engaging, thrilling, and very fun to read.
Vic and Maggie were partners when Maggie worked at the BAU for a year before burning out big time, and there were many reasons for them not to be together then, but now they’re both free of those old…entanglements. So when Vic ends up on a case in the National Park where Maggie works, they’re both like, “Oh, hello there (eyebrows wiggle).” But Maggie is very fixated on not wasting time while they should be solving the case and finding the missing hikers, so there’s not a lot of acting on that attraction (though there is some).
I had a lot of thoughts about the characterizations in this book, which I might explore further in a separate post. The characterizations definitely made sense in context, but I thought Vic, who’s a former SEAL (Team 6 FFS) was, like, the worst retired SEAL ever. Realistically they probably do lose all those badass skills that might be entirely fictitious but which I have been ingrained to expect, but when that’s put to the page…Vic didn’t feel like a former SEAL, he felt like a career fed.
The other thing that got to me was that Maggie emoted a lot. She’s this incredibly competent park ranger with BAU training, so she’s totally in the zone for this case, but 1. she’s got a huge chip on her shoulder so she takes everything Vic or her boss says as an indication that she’s not competent and 2. she has tons of huge, uncontrolled feelings every time something new happens in their case. Contrast this with Vic, who is totally stoic and then, when he eventually loses his shit, he goes silent. If you read this, I think you’ll find that this matches the rest of the characterizations of these characters, but for me as the reader, it played into what I’ve found is somewhat common in romantic suspense, which is that the women’s emotions are played up (because obviously you have to show you’re super upset about ALL THE THINGS!), and the men’s very rarely are.
The Surviving Girls
Vic was introduced in Eden’s book, but neither of these protagonists were introduced in either prior book, so I was less eager to pick this one up. TBH I was kind of hoping that their director would get his HEA, but alas, Britton will be single forever. Vic and Maggie get a mention at the climactic moment, but this book is thematically in the series rather than sharing characters throughout the series.
Lei and her best friend Emma were the only survivors of a serial killer when they were in college. In the intervening years, they’ve coped, Lei as a cadaver dog trainer and search team and Emma as a computer genius. Now the serial killer is back, but how can that be? He’s in prison! Is it a copycat? Is it a previously unknown partner? WHY IS HE SO OBSESSED WITH LEI?! (She was his girlfriend when the murders happened, so that’s rough.) Enter Dante and his partner (who is kind of the partner equivalent of a plot moppet?), called in to consult because the BAU handled the original case years before.
In terms of the romance, this one has the tidiest little bow, but it also felt very secondary to the story. Lei and Dante were extremely focused on finding the killer – not surprising, considering that Lei and Emma have been living in fear of him for over a decade – so the romance was insta and primarily manifested in Lei’s (unusual) automatic trust of Dante and Dante’s…I’ll be generous can call it protective…behavior toward Lei.
We begin with some bad stuff going down…
…then the FBI BAU people come to help…
…and at first they’re thinking maybe they’ll get this sorted before there’s another murder?
But things start to get intense…
…soo the go-getters go get…
…meanwhile, there might or might not be time for danger bangs, but there’s definitely time for kissing…
…AND THEY SOLVE IT! (Except the bad guy is still at large…)
(But it’s okay this is romantic suspense so the characters we care about pull through.)
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