I received this book as a FirstReads giveaway. Initially, I was drawn to the cover and the title - if you know me at all, you know that there's nothing I love more than thunderstorms and a good book - so I was thrilled when I won this one, even before really knowing what it was about. I knew it was a kind of cold-case mystery, and that was enough to get me to request the book. Well, along with the gorgeous cover, that is.
The edition I read is an Advance Reader's Copy, so there were some grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors, but I'm not holding those against the book, as it obviously hadn't gone through the final spit-shine yet. I imagine that all of those little errors and tweaks will be all gone or fixed by the time this is on the shelves in bookstores.
I enjoyed this story more than I thought that I would, to be perfectly honest. I will admit that I was a little concerned in the beginning that I wouldn't love the fact that it was about Kansas and cowboys, but I was so quickly drawn into the story that I forgot all about that. Rather than feeling like small-town Rose, Kansas and the cattle ranch were boring settings that I wouldn't be interested in, they actually came to feel like they had a personality of their own, as if they are living, breathing characters just as the human players are. I was pleasantly surprised by this when I realized it about 3/4 of the way through the book.
I loved the people characters, too. They all felt real, and fleshed out and true to themselves. I loved the way that the past and present times merged in them to form a full picture and to make them 3-dimensional people that I felt like I would actually meet in Kansas, should I make a trip out there. I loved that they felt true to their situations and not caricatures of the "Good Guy" or "Bad Guy". But I especially loved the family, and how they banded together to form this protective and impenetrable barrier when necessary, and the closeness and the trust and strength they both gave and took from each other. And, I even had Hugh-Jay pictured in my mind as Marlboro Man. No, not THE Marlboro Man, but this Marlboro Man from Ree Drummond's "Pioneer Woman" blog, which I LOVE, and highly recommend people read. She's witty, funny, and makes delicious creations in the kitchen.
I thought that I had this book figured out three or four times, and when everything was laid out and shown for what really happened, I was as shocked as anyone. I never guessed. I suspected everything BUT what actually happened. I love when that happens. Mysteries are the only books that I will allow to manipulate me, but if this one did, it was very tricksy, because I felt oh-so-smart coming to my conclusions... until I was proved wrong every time.
The romance bits were a nice break from the tension, and the relationships that were shown were pretty true to what I'd expect of the characters. Nothing really steamy here, but there were some sensual scenes that were welcome replacements for overly graphic sex-scenes that seem to be taking over these days.
I very much liked the writing style once I got into it. The first few pages struck me as a little rough, but it didn't take long for me to be absorbed in the characters' lives and the story, so that roughness didn't last long. Mainly it was a bit of choppiness and delay in the form of background information in the first couple of pages that I felt interrupted the story more than enhanced it. There were some pretty great quotes in the book, and even though the writing wasn't flowery or poetic (thank goodness), it still felt true and honest and wise, in a way.
I wouldn't mind owning a finished copy of this book, and I would definitely recommend it to my mystery loving friends. I am happy that I got a chance to read this. I have a feeling that I've just been introduced to an author I'll be reading more of in the future. :)
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