Code Name: Cowboy

Man on a Mission

Once Forbidden

Out of Exile
Rodeo Dad

Rules of Engagement

Strangers When We Married

The Perfect Family by Carla Cassidy
(Signet, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-451-21390-4
Marissa Jamison is a widowed mother of two children – seven year old Justin and Five year old Jessica. Marissa’s husband John, a firefighter in the small town of Cass Creek, was a murder victim. He was deliberately run down by a car in the grocery store parking lot. After a year, Marissa is starting to put her life back together. She’s opened her dream store – lighting and furniture – with the insurance money.  

Blake has been watching Marissa, Justin, and Jessica for a long time. They are “the perfect family” with “the perfect wife” and “the perfect children.” In his mind that makes them his. He’s allowed Marissa one year to mourn her husband, but now it’s time for Blake to claim his perfect family.  

Alex Kincaid, Marissa’s high school boyfriend, has just moved back to town. His parents moved the family away during high school. Alex and Marissa were convinced, as all teenagers seem to be, that their love would last long distance. Now that Alex is back, he and Marissa have rekindled their relationship.  

After one of Justin’s ballgames, Marissa nearly backs the car into another car. The other driver is drunk woman who yells at Marissa then takes off. The next day the woman is found dead with a red bow and a note “To Marissa, Love Blake.” Then a man who verbally attacked Marissa and Justin at the park is found dead with a red bow. In addition to the dead body gifts, someone is leaving Marissa roses and calling every night then hanging up.  

Detectives Luke Hunter and Sarah Wilkerson quickly put together the theory that someone is fixated on Marissa and her children. Since Marissa doesn’t know anyone named Blake, she begins to suspect every man she knows. Who is watching her and killing those who bother her?  

For a romantic suspense novel, the romance in The Perfect Family is unsatisfying. Marissa and Alex’s romance is too perfect and superficial. It’s been 15 years, yet they fall in love after two dates. They agree on everything and their romance seemed lackluster. There is more to support their teenage love than any love today. Detectives Luke and Sarah have a more interesting and hot romance. The two of them are more real – they disagree on a lot but can’t avoid the pull of sexual tension. Too bad Cassidy didn’t spend more time on Luke and Sarah.

 The mystery is built around the question of who is Blake. The reader gets first hand knowledge of the level of his obsession with Marissa and family. There’s no question that he’s a nut case. If you’re looking for a fast paced read, The Perfect Family is an acceptable story.  

On a side note, one detail that bothered me was Cassidy’s use of “earth-contact home” as a description three times without describing it. For anyone else who doesn’t know, an earth-contact home is a home where the earth covers all or part of the exterior. Thank goodness for the Internet.

--Terry Lawrence

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