My Mission: Where The Road Ends by Tara Taylor Quinn
Harlequin Connection: Published under the Mira imprint
Publication Date: 2003
How Long It's Been In My TBR: Since 2003. I was hot to trot to get this book because a huge chunk of the story takes place in Southwest Michigan, otherwise known as Where The Super Librarian Is From.
Plot: Amelia Wainscoat is the powerful business woman behind Wainscoat Construction in Chicago. After her father died, she took over the family business, leaving her young son, Charles, to be raised by his father and a doting nanny. Then her husband dies in a boating accident, and the nanny becomes strangely possessive. Shortly after Amelia fires her, Charles is abducted from an amusement part. Convinced that the jilted nanny took her son, Amelia hires private investigator, Brad Dorchester. When a lead turns up in Michigan, Amelia adopts the alias Amy Wayne and hits the road.
My Verdict: I really wish the author and Mira hadn't tried to make this a romance, because it really doesn't work as one. As a suspense novel it's not bad. Amelia/Amy was a hands-off mother until Charles kidnapping changes everything. This woman becomes frantic, desperate, and a better mother with each passing chapter. I think some readers will have trouble with her character at first, but she really goes through a metamorphosis as the tension continues to build.
The romance is extremely tacked on. I mean, how does one even think about love, sex, and naughty bits when your child is missing? Brad is largely off-screen for the majority of the book, communicating with Amelia/Amy through phone calls. There's also an aborted relationship Amelia/Amy has with a single father while passing through one of the numerous small towns she winds up in. It just doesn't work. I'm happy to report though that the author does keep the ending, as far as the romance is concerned, a little vague. No wedding bells or pregnant heroine, just a promise of a fresh start. That did work for me.
The writing here is pretty good and Quinn drips the pages with desperation. However, there's some repetition (especially in the early chapters) and with all the aliases flying around I think the editor and author could have buttoned them up better. The name "Amy" pops up in the prologue but Amelia isn't officially going by that name until chapter one. There's also a loose thread towards the end involving a threat Amy receives at her house in Chicago that isn't tied up at all. That was kind of annoying, as was the fact that I had the suspense angle figured out long before Amelia/Amy did.
The setting made me a little homesick. Neither here nor there, but I used to buy the adult fiction books for the library in one of the little towns Amelia/Amy finds herself in. I also was slightly bemused to read this description of Paw Paw by one of the characters, "Not much there except a few rich people who want to live out in the country and commute to Kalamazoo. And some white trash." Ha! Not the most flattering picture even if it is true (and before any Paw Paw-ians get het up, everyone's got their fair share of white trash regardless of where they live). That said, it's unforgivable that she didn't mention the winery.
Final Grade = C+