A cold case leads to blazing-hot temptation in this novel of romantic suspense from bestselling author Kathy Clark. For readers of Nora Roberts and Karen Robards, Almost Forever pairs a rugged lawman with a woman who may just be a murderer.
Justin Archer is a Texas Ranger through and through, a loyal man devoted to the dangerous job he loves. But when the grisly discovery of a skeleton in a local vineyard turns an old missing-persons case into a vicious homicide, Justin finds that the toughest challenge of his professional career will be keeping his hands off his chief suspect: the dead man’s beautiful, young trophy wife. Did Lori Roberts kill for vast material gain? The only thing Justin knows for sure is that their chemistry is instantaneous—and overpowering.
Lori worked hard to build a new life for herself and her daughter. She turned her husband’s struggling vineyard into a thriving enterprise, and now she stands to lose it all over something that happened eight years ago. Justin could lock her up and throw away the key, but Lori desperately wants to trust him. More than that, she wants to let him into her wounded heart. Because Lori’s been running from the past for a long time . . . and she’s ready to start living for the future.
I really liked the mystery in this story–dead man’s remains are found just beyond the borders of his own property 8 years after he is believed to have left his wife and daughter. How did he end up in that shallow grave? Why is he naked? Where are his custom-made boots, and why is he missing a finger? What’s up with the pricey diamond ring found near the body? His vineyard had been on the verge of bankruptcy when he left–how did his wife manage to renovate and turn the property around since then? I appreciated that the culprit isn’t obvious–there is one major clue about halfway through the novel, but it wouldn’t have been too hard to miss it if you weren’t paying attention. When all is revealed, the how and the why are as satisfying as the resolution. Mystery portion of the story? A solid 4 stars.
There’s suspense added in too–there’s a definite threat to Lori and her daughter throughout the book that may or may not be related to the mystery of her husband’s death. Once you know what happened to Mark, it’s relatively clear what’s going on on this front; though this part overall is a tad bit more far-fetched than the mystery itself. Suspense portion? About 3 stars.
Finally, the romance. Though I liked both Lori and Justin, the Texas Ranger who’s originally assigned to the case, their romance was definitely a case of insta-love. I wanted to believe in their romance, but ultimately it just didn’t quite work. There was a whole lot of telling us how much they cared about each other, but not enough showing. It didn’t feel like a romance worth risking his job over, as much as I wanted to believe it was. So…the romance? Another 3 stars.
This was my first book by Kathy Clark. It’s the second in her Austin Heroes series, but worked just fine as a standalone. Would I read more from her/from this series? Yes, I think so. I did like many of the characters (Justin’s family–especially his Grammy–were particular favorites) and there were some truly funny parts (like this one, from Lori’s POV:
Was it inappropriate to toast to finding out her husband was dead? There was still the matter of his being found naked and the other questionable circumstances surrounding his death. Had a jealous husband caught Mark in bed with his wife and beat the sh*t out of him? Definitely worth toasting. Or had he been attacked, stripped, and tortured before he was murdered? Not appropriate for toasting.
Okay, so it’s a black humor. But still funny).
So…yes, I’d read something from Ms. Clark in the future. Though not everything here worked for me, I’m glad I took the time to give Almost Forever a try.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars / C+
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.