BOOK REVIEW: Where There's Smoke by Sandra Brown

Set against the background of a Texas oil empire. Dr. Lara Mallory takes over a medical practice left to her by a scion of the oil dynasty--a recent suicide. To offset community hostility, Lara seeks help from a man who may do her more harm than good. 

Why on God's green earth would Lara Mallory decide to set up her medical practice in Eden Pass, Texas; home of her scandalous lovers family?  Oh, yeah because before he mysteriously died he purchased it and deeded it too her.  Awkward.  Changing her name after her husband, who stood by her side, was murdered in a coup in the Central American country they were shushed to after the scandal didn't help her keep jobs anywhere else.  She didn't have a lot to lose and she had a mission.  With interwoven storylines, Sandra Brown crafts a gripping tale of Lara and her lover's brother Key that will keep you guessing until the end and have you wanting to be able to just read faster.

I really liked this story but there's a few things I feel like need to be addressed that I didn't quite care for.  Before I go into it too much I have to remind you that the use of language does not bother me.  What bothers me is when it's used loosely and in a context that doesn't fit the character or the story.  For an affair that happened almost five years prior there was a lot of name calling going on throughout that, in my opinion, was just the use of language for language sake and not to benefit the story or to flesh out a character.  I found it a bit too much and over the top.  It became cliche after a while and detracted from the bigger story instead of enhancing it.  The storylines wove together perfectly and blended seamlessly and the characters were engaging.  However, I have to throw the cliche word out there again because that's the only word I can think of to describe how some of the characters developed.  They didn't really slide into their own personalities so much as became just another off the shelf version of what their role was.  In character development this book had opportunity for improvement.  So, let's move on to the good stuff.

Any time I pick up a mystery, which I do fairly often, the big test of it's merit is how long it takes me to figure out the answers.  Sandra Brown has thus far, always kept me gripped and guessing and thinking I've got it just to toss another curve ball at me.  Even in the last chapter there were things revealed that I hadn't yet figured out on my own.  Don't get me wrong, there were things that were glaringly obvious but the big stuff?  Took me sideways.  However the romance left me wanting.  Janellen and Bowie were too cliche for me to be invested in their romance.  Anything Darcy touched was cliche intensified.  Even Lara and Key were just too much 'thin line between love and hate'.  The only person who really surprised me at the end was Jody.  Despite the off the rack characters though they were cohesive and they worked well together.  Key and Lara's relationship was well built with a few sidebars thrown in for good measure, a lot of immaturity and a little bit of self awareness.  All in all, Sandra Brown has yet to disappointment and there's still books out there I've yet to read.

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Where There's Smoke

About Sandra Brown
Writing professionally since 1981, Brown has published over seventy novels and has upwards of eighty million copies of her books in print worldwide.  Her work has been translated into thirty-four languages.

Brown holds an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Texas Christian University, where she and her husband Michael Brown, have instituted the ELF, a scholarship awarded annually.  She has served as president of Mystery Writers of America, and in 2008 she was named Thriller Master, the top award given by the International Thriller Writer’s Association.  Other honors include the Texas Medal of Arts Award for Literature and the Romance Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2011 she went on a USO tour to Afghanistan.

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