TThe third book in the Edilean series, published August 2010.
Engaged to the charming and seductive Greg Anders, Sara Shaw is happily anticipating her wedding, just weeks away. Every detail, down to her heirloom dress is ready. But when Greg gets a telephone call during the night and leaves without explanation, and a stranger suddenly appears in her apartment and refuses to leave, Sara realizes her fiancé was not who he claimed to be … and that Mike Newland, her best friend’s brother, has crashed into her life on an undercover mission to track a notorious criminal frighteningly close to Sara. Winning Sara’s trust is the detective’s first task, but Mike never counted on revealing his own intensely private ties to Edilean or sharing secrets he’s never told anyone else. As the pair works together to solve two mysteries, their growing love begins to heal each of them in ways they never could have imagined.
Don’t you just love this cover? It really screams historical romance to me, but it is not. It is a contemporary, set in the little village of Edilean, Virginia. And I really enjoyed coming back here, and meeting some of my favourite characters again.
Sara Shaw is not happy. Her fiancé left last night, without telling her why or where to, after phone call in the middle of the night. He doesn’t respond to her text messages or voicemail either. It’s only three weeks before their wedding, and he left her with tons of work for their very upscale dress shop. Now her cousin Luke has told her he has to fumigate her apartment, and she will have to leave. Luckily, she can use her best friend Tess’s apartment, as she is on her honeymoon with her new husband Ramsay.
It’s the middle of the night, Tess is in bed, she has been busy altering clothing all evening, when suddenly she starts hearing things. Then the floor of her bedroom starts moving, and a hidden trapdoor is opening. She wants to run, but she cannot make her self go past that trapdoor to reach the door. She is highly surprised when the stranger demands to know what she is doing there! It is his sister’s apartment, and he knows she is on her honeymoon, so who is she, and what is she doing there! He will call the police!
Mike has no place to go, as his own apartment burned down, and all he has left are the clothes he is wearing and his car. He has to stay in the spare bedroom. Sara grumpily accepts that, but she knows the whole town will gossip by the end of the morning. They all hate her fiancé, and having a handsome single man staying with her is perhaps just what she needs to dump the guy.
What Sara doesn’t know, is that Mike has a purpose. He is an undercover agent, in Edilean to protect her from her own fiancé. Greg is the son of an evil conwoman, the FBI has been looking for for years. They have no idea why he is so interested in Sara, that he even divorced his wife to be able to marry her legally, but he has killed his “wives” before, and disappeared with his inheritance. They still have not found Mitzi, but they are sure Greg/Stefan will lead them to his mother.
Greg/Stefan was lured back to town where he was arrested, when they arrested his ex-wife. As he truly loves her, he came running as soon as she told him she was in trouble. They put him in jail as well, and took his phone. Mike has been reading Sara’s messages and her file, he knows everything there is to know about Sara, and of course what his sister has been telling him for the last few years. He has never visited Edilean before, always busy with the next undercover job.
Greg has been working on Sara’s self-esteem, bit by bit, and has made her abandon her friends and family whenever he could. His goal is to get Sara to marry him, take her away from Edilean, make her loose contact with everyone, and then kill her. At which point he will inherit as her husband. The only thing is, they can’t figure out what it is he is after. Sara has been wanting to buy / live in an old farm, but Ramsey’s family has owned it for generations, and he won’t sell it. Because he promised it to Tess, who wants the farm for her brother. In a few years, he will retire, and she wants him to have a place near her, and in her life. Mike has no idea what he is to do with a farm, but he will indulge his sister.
Mike’s job is to get close to Sara, seduce her when necessary, find out what Greg is after, and arrest both Greg and Mitzi. To that purpose, he has asked his sisters help in getting him close to Sara fast, who in turn asked Luke’s cooperation in getting her out of her own apartment, and into Tess’s, where Mike can surprise her coming through the trapdoor. They are all delighted to help, anything to get her out of the grasp of Greg!
Mike never had much trouble with a woman, but Sara keeps him at a distance. She is engaged after all. And Mike sure tries to get in her good graces! Cooking for her, cleaning up afterwards, just listen to her. But he also gets the trust of her family and friends seemingly overnight, and he gathers a lot of gossip. Sara is angry. Angry with Greg for not calling her back, angry with her family and friends who dislike Greg so much and want her to dump him. Can’t they see he has a good side as well? And now they all want to throw her into Mike’s arms? They don’t even know him!
Sara certainly is not a fool, and she quickly figures out Mike is in Edilean for his job, and it has to do with her. So Mike has no choice but to tell her things, and Sara deduces a lot more. But never could she have imagined the amount of betrayal that Greg has done. She is not all that much surprised; she had chosen not to see the signs of his true character. His love of money, his flirting with other women, his unstable tempers, how he never could stand her questioning him. But even when her eyes are opened, she does not fall into Mike’s willing arms.
I loved this book. Even though I read it in tiny bits and pieces (it was my pursebook for two weeks), I had no trouble picking it up again and again. I kept waiting for it to become embarrassing, when Mike keeps lying to her, and avoiding the truth, but it never happened. Sara kept surprising me with her insights, and how she handled Mike when he wanted her to stay safely home, how she reacts to the things she learns. How she is.
Yes, I liked Sara a lot. When her boyfriend of 4 years left her to return to England, and all she got was a short note that he was going to marry his childhood sweetheart, she was heartbroken. And in swept Greg, who swept her of her feet. She was sick and tired of the towns pity, so an easy prey for a charmer like Greg.
Sara is a very good cook, and seamstress, she makes her own clothes, and she used to help a lot of people, but Greg gives her so much work at the shop, she has no more time for others. He tells her that is allright; they only took advantage of her all those years, which is why she is not rich or owns her own home. She has always been attracted to the old Merlin Farm, even though she is scared to death by its caretaker, old mr. Lang. Sara comes over as a very sweet young woman, but she has a hidden backbone, and is very smart. Mike can’t get away with much.
Mike and Tess had a difficult childhood, being raised by their “evil” grandmother. Mike ran off to join the army as soon as he could, and “freed” Tess the day she graduated highschool. He took care of her ever since, until she could support herself. But they are very close. He has only one other friend, and a lot of colleagues and acquaintances. Mike works out a lot, and is a sucker for health food and drinks. Which endears him quickly to Sara’s mother, who owns an organic food emporium. They can talk food and herbs for hours. Due to his many undercover jobs, he is good at a lot of things, like cooking and dancing. And he is very much surprised when Sara does not fall in his arms right away, when he puts some effort into it. He is not truly handsome, but he has a body like a young god!
The plot is truly good, and original, and I loved discovering along with Mike and Tess what Greg could be after. Even though there was supposed to be a lot of FBI backup, in the end it is Tess who is the heroine of the day, bringing down Mitzi. This book is just plain fun, great characters, both main and secondary, great plot, good pace, humor, and surprises everywhere. And finally, the love scenes between Mike and Sara, not too elaborated, that is not Jude Deveraux’ style, but fitting the story and sweet. I can’t think of something I did not like, perhaps more about what happened at the Fair in the end.
I want to live in Edilean and meet all those people! Jude Deveraux sure delivered another keeper.