|Sparked by danger. Fueled by passion.
I don’t usually read the Silhouette Intimate Moments line. I just can’t.
Like their tagline suggests, SIM novels are filled with danger, intrigue, murder and mayhem. Even the company’s website, eharlequin.com, promotes each book in the series as “a roller-coaster read that delivers romantic thrills in a world of suspense, adventure, and more.” Unfortunately, today’s newspapers are filled with stories even more dramatic. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
As a journalist, I see articles daily that would harden even the warmest heart. I worry about the rising murder rate, a failing economy, gang and turf wars, dirty bombs and political corruption. A friend and colleague is scheduled to return to Iraq for a second tour of duty in a matter of days, and it’s tearing me up inside. So, when I get the chance to read for pleasure, it becomes a form of escapism. I want happily ever after ... but with a romantic beginning, middle and end. No dead bodies.
That said, I must admit that Ruth Langan may have changed my mind about SIMs. Cover-Up, apparently the first in her Devil’s Cove series, is intriguing and thrilling, but also sweet and heart-warming. It’s realistic (murder, child abuse, death in the family, single mom) and romantic all at the same time. She’s crafted three-dimensional characters and a setting that seems to have a life of its own, as well as a plot that keeps you guessing.
Emily Brennan, rescuer of stray animals and lonesome boys, befriended Jason Cooper when they were only eight years old. Abused by his alcoholic father, he fell in love with the little angel he met that day ... and loves her still, even though he hasn’t seen or spoken to her in a dozen years. He left town without a word right after high school graduation.
A doctor, Emily returned home to care for her ailing father and, after he died, his patients, because he made her promise to do so. After struggling for years to establish her independence, she’s slowly realizing that she can be surrounded and supported by her family and still be an individual.
Now a successful novelist, Jason is back for a week of tributes to their former teacher (Emily’s grandmother), who is retiring. Or so he tells himself. He’s rich and famous, but feels more alone than ever. Despite the abrupt and awkward way he left, her family welcomes him with open arms and hearts. He finds himself, once again, sitting around their dinner table, listening as they bicker and tease affectionately.
So much love, given without reservation. When he’d first encountered it he’d felt like a cave dweller emerging for the first time into the warmth of the sun. At first it had merely dazzled him. Then it had led to comparisons between the blinding light of this life and the dullness of his own existence. Finally he’d realized that he could never again be content to leave the warmth behind and crawl back into the darkness.
This is why he’d left Devil’s Cove.
This is why he’d returned.
Jason basks in the glow of the love so freely offered by the Brennans. Langan’s words are carefully selected for maximum effect. Another excellent example: Emily’s home is described as one of “a wonderful collection of turn-of-the-century mansions that sat along the shore of Lake Michigan, hugging the water’s edge like faded dowagers.”
Langan’s imagery creates people and places you can see in your mind’s eye. Readers become residents of Devil’s Cove, with its small-town feel - and air of mystery. We become tangled up in the lives of the people we meet and intrigued by wisps of secrets that are just beyond our understanding. Like the ubiquitous fog, this town’s drama wraps around our imagination and colors our perceptions until just the right moment.
As the story unfolds, questions abound: Why did Jason leave? Who’s threatening Emily? Why does her stalker so closely resemble the criminal in Jason’s latest bestseller? Who committed the unsolved murders in Devil’s Cove? Why is their old friend Robeson so distracted and distant? Who fathered Carrie’s daughter, and left her to raise the child alone? Will Prentice and Carrie overcome their vastly different backgrounds and find a way to be together?
From the opening chapter, a flashback to 1981, to the preview of sister Hannah’s story at the end of the book, Langan has us hooked. We don’t get all the answers, but we’ll keep reading until we do.