Debra White Smith
Trade Paperback/240 pages
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". . . breakneck pace stumbles through tortured and overwrought prose . . ."
Romance with a diabolical twist.
Jack Mansfield wanted to pick Charli Friedmont up for a date, not to arrest her for embezzling a hundred thousand dollars from the bank where she worked. As chief of police, he didn’t have a choice. It was a job he couldn’t hand off to his deputies.
After nearly twelve years of heartbreak, booze and, finally, a glimmer of hope that Charli was considering him more than her old boyfriend, the last thing he wanted was to put her in jail and ruin both their lives – again. Something about Charli’s reaction told Jack all he needed to know. Charli was innocent and someone had gone to great lengths to frame her. If he were going to be able to save the woman he had loved and waited for so long, he’d have to work fast.
There’s nothing like diving into a novel in the deep end, but Debra White Smith wastes no time putting her romantic protagonists in the deep end. The stakes are high and so is the plot, like starting at the top of a roller coaster and plunging in a screaming dive down into the action. The fires of trial and tribulation are raging, providing Texas Heat with a few bonfires to watch.
Amid the romantic angst and the tentative movement toward a long overdue reconciliation White throws in sniping sibling humor, an embezzler intent on protecting his image and his freedom, a widowed mother of two rambunctious boys and quick fire dialogue, in fact, everything needed for a rip roaring romance. There is only one big problem. White’s smooth dialogue and breakneck pace stumbles through tortured and overwrought prose that has no place in this plain spoken, no frills rural setting. At one point, Charli is worn and frazzled and sinks onto her grandmother’s rocker, in White’s words, she “…drops therein.” It’s as if White feels the need to show off her education and multisyllabic prowess, getting in the way of her characters and their normal speech patterns and bringing the story to a screeching halt. Plainly speaking, it just does not fit.
Despite this major problem, the story, the characters and the intrigue are intact and well worth the word land mines scattered throughout the tale. Jack is a strong hero and a gentleman in every sense of the word to give any woman romantic ideas. Charli is vulnerable, damaged and principled and worthy of Jack’s trust and affection. In short, I enjoyed my visit to Bullard and a chance to get to know a slice of Texas hospitality and grit.
Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell