Thursday, August 9, 2012
A Thin, Dark Line by Emma Elliott
From the blurb:
When Cormac O'Malley--Dogwood, Ohio's former bad boy and a man just released from prison--returns and shows up on her doorstep, librarian Eloise Carmichael hires him as a handyman despite warnings and misgivings. After a body is found at the library, Eloise becomes obsessed with the mysteries surrounding a murder that took place fifteen years ago. But as the body count rises and family secrets are brought to light, Eloise and Cormac realize the only hope for redemption--and love--lies in each other.
4.5 flowers, more accurately.
Well, well, well - I don't know what I expected but I surely didn't expect to be so blown away. Let the gushing commence.
While A Thin, Dark Line is not using a brand-new story line, Emma Elliott delivers a mighty fine romance/suspense/whodunit with her debut novel.
Eloise Carmicheal or Aunt Weez, as her two adorable godsons call her, is the family's black sheep and the librarian in the small town where she grew up and still lives. Approaching her 30th birthday, she muses to her best friend Jane (the mother of the two godsons and Eloise's best friend) about feeling stuck in a rut, without a boyfriend in sight, and yearning for having a husband and children herself.
She knows she has awesome friends, among them Jane and her husband who are struggling with the upcoming arrival of a new baby and some marital issues, and her cousin Patrick and his partner, Sal (who's also the son of the Italian Restaurant owners who regard Eloise as family).
Her mother, a most snotty, awful woman, doesn't agree with Eloise's choices in life and uses every possible opportunity to intrude on her daughter's life and make her displeasure known. Her father isn't much better, usually deep into his cups to be much of a buffer. Her three sisters are also all doctors, and Eloise's being 'just' a librarian is generally frowned upon by her entire family. Lovely people, all of them. Not.
Eloise deals with it as best as she can, usually giving back as good as she gets. The author gave her heroine some great backbone, and I smiled a lot when Eloise stands up for herself.
Enter Cormac O'Malley, the town's fallen son, a convicted murderer who upon his release from prison returns to his hometown. Eloise hires him as a handyman, against the advice of everyone around her, and this is where things really take off.
His appearance kicks off a series of rather mysterious events - people are starting to drop like flies - and it all points back at Cormac and the secrets the powers in the town have kept for far too long.
If it were simply a suspense/thriller, it would be a book I'd devour, but A Thin, Dark Line is so much more than that. It's also a beautiful romance as Eloise falls for Cormac and vice versa, and a wonderfully emotional story about the family you choose (your friends).
There are moments that will make you swoon, moments that will have you hold your breath, and moments that will have you ball your fists in anger. I was sucked in from the start.
The romance was done very realistically, with amazingly emotional and tender moments that made me fall in love with both Eloise and Cormac. Well, him more than her, but that's semantics.
The image of his huge man, deep, mysterious and mostly silently observing, with callused hands, touching Eloise with so much care brought tears to my eyes. His stoic acceptance of the prejudice against him, and his quiet thankfulness when he is faced with unconditional acceptance was amazing to watch unfold. He has secrets of his own, a history he's unwilling to share, and a burning need to reveal the truth of what happened so many years ago, despite the dangers to himself. He's protective, caring, kind and lets his character speak for himself. Their love scenes are sporadic and not at all explicit, which puts the actual slowly building romance between the two into the spotlight, putting the reader in the midst of the growing sexual tension, and allows for the fantastic plot to develop naturally.
The two boys provide a bit of comic relief, but also serve as a reminder that children often see things more clearly than the adults around them. And that children can be a great judge of character without knowing the history of a man.
When the book reached its climax, I sat here with my mouth open and my breath stuck in my throat, because the identity of the killer came out of left field, yet made so much sense that I felt a wee bit dumb for not figuring it out sooner. The hints were there - I just didn't see them, which is a credit to the author for weaving such an intricate plot.
This story has a bit of everything, and I couldn't put it down. It was fabulous, and I will absolutely read it again. The writing style is warm and intelligent, written in the Eloise's first person POV. The dialogue is engaging, and overall this story is told in a very different way than most romantic suspense novels. There's much wit and some very funny and snarky, yet also rather poignant moments with Eloise's older sister, who's an absolutely fascinating female specimen with man troubles of her own.
A fantastic debut novel, Ms. Elliott, and much better than I had expected. Your obvious talent shines in this first offering. I hope to see lots more from you.
I received a free ARC directly from the publisher. A review was not promised in exchange, and this review represents my honest opinion of the book.
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Also, this author is participating in a blog tour and will return here with an author interview and giveaway. Two lucky winners will get a free electronic copy of the book. Come join us on August 25th, 2012 for your chance to win!
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