Last week, the Review was all about Miss Fisher and her murder mysteries moving from books to TV. This week we’re still in the land of crime, but back in bookland and with an example of the genre that couldn’t be more different from the glamorous Phryne Fisher: Lethal Refuge, by Vonnie Hughes.
This is how Vonnie describes Lethal Refuge on her website:
LETHAL REFUGE is set in New Zealand. Celie Francis is plunged into the witness protection program (the Unit) after witnessing the aftermath of a murder. There, she is expected to trust complete strangers with her life, and trust is not something Celie does well, after being abandoned as a child.
Brand Turner, the psychologist for the Unit, demands trust from the relocatees so he can ease them into their new identities, but someone inside the Unit is leaking information. He and Celie are menaced and they go on the run. Should Celie trust Brand with her life?
I was attracted to this novel by the incredibly cool title and cover and, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I won a copy from Vonnie by shamelessly saying so on her blog.
I don’t really know what I expected of this book. I haven’t read much romantic suspense, so I would have said I didn’t have any preconceived notions, but I guess I did, because I was surprised.
I suppose I have come to expect romances to be, well, romantic. But this book read like a hard-boiled crime novel, scary and violent, with crackling emotional entanglement providing just another element to the danger.
Structurally, this novel is a thriller, because, although there is murder involved, the characters are not interested so much in solving the murder as finding a way to protect Celie from becoming the next victim.
The main difference from a ‘straight’ crime novel is that you do get both Celie and Brand’s point of view, which is more of a romance trope. I did notice this as I read, but it is to Hughes’ credit that this fairly hard-boiled crime reader didn’t find that it distracted from the suspense.
I don’t want to talk too much about how the story is developed, for fear of spoilers, but I will say that I was genuinely scared in places and I suspected some characters, then acquitted them, then suspected them again, more than once.
In short, I was impressed. The title and cover didn’t let me down! If you like your romance spiced up with life-threatening danger, or you like your crime spiked with love-under-fire and hot sex, I’d say, give Vonnie Hughes a go. Personally, I am now going to have to read some of her Regency Romances, which is the other side of her writing personality (I know; go figure!). Just to see!
Hope your Wednesday is treating you well,