Kristen Ashley has made a decade-long career out of bringing characters to the page in ways that continue to be fresh, poignant, and instantly recognisable, but she is also one of those authors who frequently reinvents herself with each new world she creates, and in this richly detailed, intricately plotted Romantic Thriller with a serial killer at its centre, Ashley shows herself to be at the height of her powers.
The story takes us to Misted Pines, a sleepy little town happily nestled among the evergreens of the Pacific Northwest, and the new home of famed actress and author Delphine Larue. Forced to hide from a deranged stalker, fifty-three-year-old Delphine has left the Hollywood Hills for the shores of a quiet forest lake in the middle of nowhere, expecting only the serenity of the place to keep her company. But what she quickly comes to realise is that her new home’s greatest advantage is not its remoteness, but its vicinity to one Cade Bohannan— former Green Beret, former FBI field agent, former profiler, and all-around badass.
“Are you really giving me permission to meddle in your lives?”
“Are you really pretending you need permission?”
Even though the place immediately feels like home, everything is not as idyllic in Misted Pines as it first appears because young girls are disappearing and being found murdered, and before long, Delphine finds herself having a lot more to worry about than a stalker. Delphine and Cade are pulled into a complex web of deception, dark secrets, and danger, all led by a sinister and unexpected mastermind who seems to be always a step ahead of them. And in the midst of it all, they begin to fall in love. With three failed marriages between them, they are both looking for the kind of intimacy, acceptance, and companionship that have been missing from both their lives for far too long, and that is exactly what they uncomplicatedly offer one another from the start.
“Shit,” he muttered against my skin. His lips slid up to my ear. “I hurt you?”
“Not even close.”
His mouth still at my ear, his head tipped slightly so he could look from under his brow into my eyes in the mirror. God, he was pure fucking sex.
As their families slowly begin to blend, and Delphine and Cade grow closer and closer, the Misted Pines killer continues to terrorise the small town, creating deliberate chaos and delighting in it. Until it hits too close to home.
“I got sordid and tawdry all around me, but these days, all I gotta do is think of you and know a cycle can be broken and light can shine out of dark.”
The novel’s deeply atmospheric setting is exploited to stunning effect, lending the story an air of mystery and a fittingly eerie feel. Kristen Ashley goes to some pretty dark places on occasion, but every scene still possesses the heart and warmth that Ashley brings to all her books. Her signature essence seeps through the pages like an intoxicating cloud, delivering a gripping whodunit that is equal parts thrilling and heartfelt, and revels in unexpected twists.
“It’s you . . . all along, I’ve been waiting for you to get to me.”