Disclaimer: This book is currently only published in Australia. I'm reviewing it because 1) A publicist asked me if I wanted to 2) I "know" Bronwyn's name from around the blogosphere and 3) this book won the 2007 Golden Heart award for best unpublished romantic suspense manuscript. Also, last time I checked, my blog can be viewed overseas. No Americans, it ain't all about us. So for those readers not in Australia - you can either 1) fork over the cash for foreign shipping 2) ask your library if they'll ILL a brand new release from overseas (good luck with that) or 3) hope that this book will eventually appear in the U.S. because Hachette also owns Grand Central Publishing. Now, on to the review.
I've made no secret that I tend to love darker reads. Probably the result of all those mystery and suspense novels warping my fragile widdle mind as a teenager. My contemporaries were reading angst-filled teen romances and I was reading about autopsies, serial killers and dead bodies. Hey, even librarians are allowed a dark side.
Which, I think, will be the main stumbling block for most readers when it comes to Bronwyn Parry's debut romantic suspense, As Darkness Falls. There is a dark cloud hanging over this story for pretty much the entire book. The desperation practically drips off the pages. It makes for a compelling read, mostly because I couldn't wait to see if the author would be able to pull off the "happily-ever-after." She does, I think - and quite convincingly.
Isabelle O'Connell was once a well-respected police officer. But when a case she's working in her hometown involving a kidnapped child goes horribly wrong, Isabelle finds herself coping with injuries, both mental and physical, she received at the very hands of people she once trusted. People she thought she knew. So she drops out. Literally. She's living in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, and while she's technically "on leave," for all intents and purposes, she's no longer a cop.
Then Detective Chief Inspector, Alec Goddard, shows up at her door. Another child has been taken from her hometown of Dungirri. She knows the locals, the players, and was an integral part in that last case that went all wrong. He needs her, and despite her reservations and fears, Isabelle knows she has to help. The missing girl is the daughter of her closest high school chum.
Isabelle is a very interesting character. She's intelligent, independent, but also wounded and vulnerable. She's part kick-ass and part damsel-in-need-rescuing. Quite frankly, she's fascinating. In turn, Alec is dedicated, intelligent, but aware of the fact that the job takes a toll on personal relationships. He has seen that toll, and is still carrying around the baggage.
The suspense thread is really quite good here, again because the author infuses this story with a desperation that made it hard for me to stop reading. Australia as a locale has a long history in romance, one that has largely eluded me, but it's a fantastic backdrop here. Dungirri reminded me a lot of those small, slowly dying, east coast towns where industry has dried up and the blue-collar residents are left adrift. Very relatable to an American reader.
The romance here is very good, and the author does a wonderful job of projecting "longing" in her characters. The time frame is short (about a week), but it worked for me in this story, mostly because of the stress the author places her characters under.
The only misstep in this story comes when the police decide to storm into someone's home without benefit of a warrant and circumstances so slim I'd be hard pressed to call them exigent. But again, this takes place in Australia - and what I know about the Australian legal system....well, it's nothing folks. I don't know jack about how the law works in Australia. So American readers would do well to remember that little factoid should they get their hands on this story.
Despite that misstep (which very well could be no misstep at all), and a few chapter transitions that probably could have been smoother, I really enjoyed this book. I positively tore through it, in fact. It's also the first book in a projected trilogy. Hopefully if Parry is a big enough hit in her native Australia, Hachette will decide to treat American readers to her stories as well. As Darkness Falls is a fine romantic suspense tale, one I think American romance readers should have the opportunity to be exposed to.
Final Grade = B+