Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: House of Secrets #3
Published by HQN Books on June 28th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
As Laurel Ridge embraces a stranger hungry for answers, a sinister truth is awakened.
A hard-hitting reporter, Kate Beaumont unearths the deepest lies and brings harsh truths to light, but the story that lures her to the gentle town of Laurel Ridge, Pennsylvania, is closer to her heart than anyone knows. The details of her half brother's sudden death have never made sense. She owes him justice, yet the one man who can help her is the stubborn sheriff she can't stand.
Protecting his town is Mac Whiting's top priority. Everything else, including pacifying a beautiful crusader on a mission best left resting in peace, is secondary. But as Kate's search embeds her in his world and attracts a skilled criminal, she needs Mac's protection. Drawn together by deadly secrets, they must find a way to trust each other before a killer silences them both.
I just plain liked this book. I think it may have been a case of the right book at the right time, but I definitely found myself slipping into the book, and the world of Laurel Ridge, very easily. And I say this in spite of this book being the author’s third trip to Laurel Ridge, after Where Secrets Sleep and When Secrets Strike, which I have not read and did not miss having read for the purpose of getting into How Secrets Die.
But I enjoyed this book so much that I plan to go back and read the first two.
How Secrets Die is a lovely small-town romantic suspense story. Reporter Kate Beaumont comes to Laurel Ridge to investigate the death of her brother the previous year. The local cops dismissed the case as an accidental death – a former drug addict who slipped off the wagon to an untimely end.
But Kate can’t let it go. Her brother Jason had had some trouble, but he had been clean and sober for years, and was doing well in college and seemed to be doing well at his internship at a local financial firm. Kate is certain that something must have gone seriously wrong to drive Jason back to his old, bad habits.
After endless viewings of Jason’s somewhat cryptic video journal, Kate just doesn’t see what drove him off the rails and to his death. So she comes to Laurel Ridge to search for herself, and runs right into the local police chief, Mac Whiting.
Kate blames Mac for the quick dismissal of her brother’s case. Mac is, at first, worried that Kate is just there to stir up trouble. But when that trouble strikes, Mac finds that he is just plain worried about Kate. And guilty that he didn’t look deeper into the case at the time. Because when the attacks on Kate escalate, it becomes clear that there must be something he overlooked.
If the case were as open and shut as it initially appeared to be, no one would feel threatened by Kate’s presence in town. But someone obviously is. And they’ll stop at nothing to make sure that whatever secret Jason uncovered, it stays dead with him. And if necessary, with Kate.
Escape Rating B: As I said at the top, I just plain liked this book. I was in the mood for a relatively familiar type of story, one with likable characters and a few interesting twists, and How Secrets Die fit the bill.
And although the romance is quite lovely, this is a surprisingly clean book. The author does a good job of portraying the heat between Kate and Mac while giving them plenty of logical reason for not indulging in that spark at first, second or even subsequent involvement. This is a story where postponing the romantic payoff until the very end made sense. Also you might see this book billed as “Inspirational”. After reading it, I can say that it does not fall into that genre. How Secrets Die falls squarely into romantic suspense.
Kate and Mac certainly have one thing in common – they are both dealing with a load of survivor’s guilt. Kate’s is pretty obvious from the outset – she feels guilty that she didn’t notice her brother’s cry for help. It isn’t until well into her investigation that she starts to realize that she didn’t respond because there wasn’t one. He never knew how much trouble he was in until it was far too late.
Mac’s heavy dose of guilt is both recent and long-term. As Kate shakes things up in Laurel Ridge, she often accuses him of being too protective of the local citizens to dive into things that need to be dove into. And she’s right. He dismissed Jason’s case much too easily, even though there were a whole bunch of loose ends that he never tied down. He knew too many people too well to question them the way he should have.
He also lives with an overwhelming need to protect his community, because he feels that he let so many people who depended on him down when he served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The people that he couldn’t save haunt him.
Kate and Mac do not start from a position of trust. Kate doesn’t much like cops – her stepfather was one and was a rigid taskmaster who insisted that his many rules be followed to the letter. While there was no abuse, there was also no love or respect. Instead, Kate found herself raising her younger half-brother, and trying to protect his very quirky nature from his by-the-book father.
While we never hear if Jason was diagnosed with anything in particular, it sounds like he might have been somewhere on the Asperger spectrum.
So the story in this romantic suspense story is Kate moving to Laurel Ridge to find out what happened to her brother. Along the way she falls for the police chief, who is tied to the community, while Kate plans to leave when her quest is over. Along the way they trip over several secrets that the owners would rather remain buried, and who would be happy to bury Kate right along with them.
At the end, the perpetrator finally reveals themselves in an attempt to kill Kate and cover their tracks one more time. And once we discover who it is, we see that it was obvious all along, but hidden just as well from the reader as from the community.
~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~
Marta and Harlequin are giving away a $25 Gift Card to one lucky commenter on this tour:
To read an evocative excerpt from How Secrets Die, check below the fold.
Kate felt a bit conspicuous, lingering in the front window of the bookshop watching the stairs that came down from the offices above. But catching Nikki when she left the financial office for lunch seemed the best and most casual way of approaching the woman.
She straightened the display of current books in the window, hoping Emily wasn’t watching her. The two hours Kate had worked this morning had gone well, with Emily warming up and becoming chattier, and she didn’t want to rouse any suspicions now.
Five after twelve—surely Nikki would take her lunch break soon. She might, of course, have brought lunch with her, but Nikki hadn’t seemed so eager to get on with her work that she’d want to eat at her desk.
“You don’t need to tidy the window.”
The voice behind her startled Kate. She hadn’t heard Emily’s approach. The thick-soled, sensible shoes she wore allowed her to move like a cat.
“I was looking at this.” Kate picked up the latest volume by a popular fantasy author, her fingers tracing the embossed lines of the green dragon on its cover. “My brother loved this series.”
Emily’s crinkled face softened, her china-blue eyes filling with easy tears. “He did, didn’t he? He always browsed through the fantasy section, and what he didn’t know about the books and authors wasn’t worth knowing. I told him he’d missed his calling, going into finance the way he did.”
The tears may have been facile, but there was no doubting that Emily had been touched by Jason’s death. Strange, wasn’t it? She’d come here intent on her own private grief, only to find that his passing had affected people she hadn’t even known. Mrs. Anderson and Emily had both shed tears for him.
As for Mac—unless he was putting up an awfully good front, he had been wounded himself, either by the fact of someone dying on his watch or by his inability to trace the drugs that had killed Jason. Her nerves clenched. She’d struck a bargain with Mac that she had yet to fulfill, and she was already regretting it. And yet what choice had she had?
“Jason did enjoy fantasy. I always thought he’d end up designing fantasy games or maybe writing graphic novels. But his father always pushed him toward doing something practical.”
In that, as in so many things, Tom had shown his lack of understanding of his son. Jason had never been, maybe couldn’t be, practical. But he’d wanted, just once, to please his father.
“I suppose finance is practical, all right.” Emily looked a little doubtful. “It’s all I can do to make sure my income balances at the end of the day. Russell—Russell Sheldon, that is, from the financial services company—used to say that we should hire a teenager to look after the computer records for us. He claimed they were the only ones who really understood computers.”
“Jason mentioned Mr. Sheldon. He was one of the partners when Jason worked there.”
“Not just one of the partners,” Emily corrected. “Why, Russell founded that firm. Always very successful, it was, and he was the soul of integrity. Everyone was sorry to see him retire so abruptly. I’m sure Bart and Lina do fine work, but it’s not the same. Russell was a real gentleman.” In Emily’s phrasing the word seemed to convey an image of an era in which gentlemen adhered to a code that others might not.
Kate was about to follow up with a question when a flicker of movement caught the corner of her eye. Nikki was coming down the stairs.