I like romantic suspense. I like to read the way a fish likes water. So when I have read all the books I already have, and all that are new by authors I like, I have get new books by new-to-me authors, right? Except reading a book by new author always makes me feel what can only be described as trepidation because I have a such a low threshold for bad writing that it can slide under a dollar bill and give Washington a hand-job.
Nevertheless, I do break down and buy new novels. It happens. But when it’s not one of my auto-buys what I want is a cheap book to try on for size. Hatchet Job by Tamsin Everly cost a whopping $3.99 so it fit my criteria. Plus, the tagline of “”Lizzie Borden took an ex …” amused me and the blurb made it seem interesting:
“Lizzie left her cheating husband and her Gold Coast life behind after taking a hatchet to his political dreams. But a successful divorce in a world where women are traded in like used cars is the Holy Grail, and when her friend Samantha asks for her help she digs out her camera and prepares to solve the mystery of Mike Riley–a successful plastic surgeon whose behavior has changed so drastically that his wife just can’t deal with it any longer. Spying on Mike leads to nothing but trouble, though. He’s not into drugs, or women… he’s dead. In over her head Lizzie turns to her mobbed up landlord and his dangerously sexy nephew Nick, a man who could easily do more damage to her heart than her ex-husband ever had. As the body count rises Lizzie finds herself trapped between a man who makes her feel alive, and someone who seriously wants her dead…”
I read it, and lo a miracle occurred for me — it was worth reading!
Warning there might be “spoilers” ahead. I don’t think they’re “spoilers”, but they might be for some people. I don’t give away stuff about the mystery, though. What kind of person do you think I am?
Do not answer that.
Anyway, back to the book — It’s told in the first person by the heroine, Lizzie Borden. No, her parents weren’t sadistic dipshits; her ex husband was a hotshot lawyer named Stephen Borden so she got that name when she said “I do”. She also got treated like crap. Unlike the good little heroines of yesteryear, she did not take it meekly and then let some Big Strong Man find her and love her after her jerk of a husband abandoned her. Nope. She saw the women around her in her ritzy neighborhood either lose their humanity by staying with the bastards they had married or their shirts when they got swapped out for a younger woman (and God Forbid if they were the ones who asked for a divorce) so she made a plan.
That plan involved taking color photos of her politically ambitious husband’s nekkid hiney in flagrante delicto with some chick in a hotel room and then releasing the aforementioned pictures to the media. Needless to say, she walked out of her divorce in much better shape than most women. Honestly, the flashback of her sneaking into the suite and taking the pictures was worth buying the book for me. I love a protagonist who takes the bull by the horns, so to speak:
“I smiled at the hotel clerk and told him I was there to surprise my husband, the poor sod knew something was up but he wasn’t willing to take the fall for Stephen, and I didn’t blame him. I’d been counting on it. He looked at my ID and gave me a smile as plastic as the key card he slid across the desk. I sauntered to the elevator and up to the room, got out the new smartphone Stephen had insisted that I needed and opened the door. Did you know that the new door locks are practically silent? Apparently anything as loud as a turning lock mechanism is considered passé. I slipped out of my heels and padded silently across the three-inch pile towards the bedroom and the oh-so-recognizable sounds coming from it. I have to admit I was torn—I couldn’t decide whether to be angry or thankful that he was actually doing what I expected him to be doing. I decided I would make that decision later when I had more time and a large glass of something alcoholic to help me think. The door was slightly ajar and I nudged it with my stockinged toe, holding my breath. I should have known that any place that wouldn’t allow locks to click wouldn’t allow doors to creak either. It swung silently and the whole scene became more and more surreal. I felt like I was watching something on television, the sounds were strangely distant, muffled by a roaring in my ears.
I raised the 14 megapixel camera phone and took thirty seconds of live action film and a few dozen stills. I made sure to capture his face, her face, and his muscular, humping ass as it waved obscenely in the air.
Then, I backed out, pulled the door closed behind me and ran.”
Although you have to read further into the book to find it out, the media had a field day with the photos (of course), and Lizzie’s very-headline-play-on-words-worthy-name made it all the juicer. Stephen’s political career was toast. The only consequence she “suffered” from was to be cast out of their social group, but she was more relieved than sad about that.
So when her best friend from college, Samantha Riley, needed help leaving her crackerjack plastic surgeon hubby she came to Lizzie Borden, “the Queen of Vindictive Divorce”. Lizzie agrees to do her buddy a solid and stake out Sam’s house to take pictures of whatever it was that dearest Mike was up to.
Enter (well, re-enter but this is where it gets rolling) the hero stage left. Because Lizzie needed a discrete ride to the snazzy neighborhood Sam lived in, particularly a someone who would drop her off and then come back to get her without quibbling about irrelevant stuff like “legality”, and she asks her landlord’s nephew, Nick Staczak, for a favor. It’s a little contrived, but not completely implausible by any means. Since she is friends with her elderly Polish landlord, Wally Kovacs, she has known Nick for a while and Wally likes it when Nick is nice to her. Furthermore, she assumes Nick is in organized crime because Wally had been, so he would be less upset about a covert op than most people.
I wasn’t crazy about the hero at first, because Nick initially came across as a “bad boy” from whom Lizzie has been steering clear of to protect her already broken heart and that trope had gotten old for me by 1986. However, there was much more to Nick than just “bad boy”, and by the end of the book you are rooting for him to win Lizzie’s heart.
Mystery happens. I don’t want to go into detail because it is too easy to drop accidental clues, but the mystery is a good one. It’s not an easy-peasy one, but it isn’t ridiculously complex just to make it harder to figure out. It’s a hard in a rational, non-the-butler-hid-in-the-elephant kind of way.
Romance also happens. Like the mystery, it was also a good one. It even had the refreshing change (nowadays) of having the couple make out a couple of times instead of cutting straight to the rumpy-pumpy. (Seriously, we used to kiss on dates and make out with people even when we weren’t ready to make the beast with two backs. Do they not do that anymore?)
Secrets are revealed! Danger is survived! Understandings are come to! HEA is achieved!
The thing I liked best about this book is it didn’t stint on either the “romantic” OR the “suspense” aspect of the story. Sadly, too many books in this genre will have a smoking hot romance but a mystery that a toddler could solve if it weren’t for the unlikelihood (physics much?) of the “crime” OR they have a great mystery with the lamest excuse for romance ever in the history of the world. A middle ground where both are good is nice to find.
The second thing I liked best about this book was the heroine’s snarky internal monologue. Bitch could turn a phrase, y’all. To be honest, the book needed it. The mystery could have gotten way too “dark” for a romance in a hurry if Lizzie’s witticisms didn’t keep bringing the “light” back. Here are a few of the ones that tickled me:
In short, Imma give the book a hardy B+ because a it had a romantic romance, a rational mystery, and lots of smarty-pants comments, with only a few rough spots.