Raised in foster care apart from his six siblings, PI Chris Colton knows what it's like to be separated from family. So when a kindly older couple hires him to find their son's gold-digging widow who ran off with her twin toddlers, Chris won't rest until Holly McCay is held accountable. But he quickly discovers that his employers are out to get Holly. And they'll eliminate anyone standing in their way…including the brave woman and sweet little boys the investigator-turned-bodyguard has come to think of as his own!
A double whammy of goodness in this book. First, it is the continuation of the Coltons of Texas series, with its ongoing mysteries of catching the Alphabet Killer, and the Colton siblings trying to find out where their serial killer father buried their mother. But the icing on cake, so to speak, is that this installment was written by Amelia Autin, an author who excels in characters and stories you can't forget.
The book opens with an older couple hiring Chris to find their daughter-in-law, a woman who has taken their grandsons away from them. They paint her as a gold-digger who tricked their late son into marriage. Chris believes in the importance of family and is determined to find her. I started out thinking that he was being awfully judgmental before getting the whole story, but that opinion changed pretty quickly. Chris is a very observant man, and something about them made him look into their story a little deeper. What he discovered sent him looking for Holly, not to turn her over, but to protect her.
Holly had taken her boys and run after someone tried to run her off the road twice, and then tried to run her down in a grocery store parking lot. She is the sole trustee for her sons' inheritance, and her in-laws had already tried to overturn the will and also take custody from her. She was convinced that they were trying to kill her to gain control of their money. After several months of running, she ended up in Granite Gulch where she has made friends with, of all people, Chris's former sister-in-law. Just as she thought she might be safe, she gets the feeling she's being watched and prepares to run again.
Can I say just how much I adored Chris? He is a very complicated man, with so many things that have influenced the man he has become. There's being the son of a serial killer, having spent time in foster care at the mercy of foster parents only in it for the money, and holding himself responsible for the death of his wife and unborn child to name a few. In spite of it all, he is a kind and honorable man. I loved how he very quickly put Holly's mind at ease when he found her, letting her know that he believes the truth of why she ran. Not only that, he is determined to protect her and her boys, while at the same time catching the McCays and stopping them for good.
Holly was fantastic, too. She is independent, resourceful, and a great mother. She and her husband had been best friends growing up. She carries some guilt over how their marriage came about, but she was the best wife she could be to him. When she realized that her life was in danger, she did what she needed to in order to survive and protect her boys. Okay, she wasn't devious enough to be really good at it, but she tried. Fortunately, Chris was the one to find her.
I loved the development of their relationship. The attraction was there from the moment that they met, but both were wary of doing anything about it at first. Chris simply avoids involvement as a way to protect himself, where Holly believes that she is simply bad at it. When they shared that first explosive kiss, both had to come to terms with the feelings it stirred up. I loved seeing Holly embrace it first. She is so open and caring that she easily sees through the walls that Chris has put up. I loved seeing the way that she takes each one of his issues and shows him a different way to look at it. She also sees how wonderful he is with her sons and knows that he'd be a great dad if he would let himself love again. For his part, I loved seeing how impressed Chris was with Holly's strength of will and determination to protect her boys. He was also surprised by his attraction to her, since he'd been closed off since his wife's death. I also loved how observant he was when it came to her, she often felt as though he was reading her mind. It was sweet to see the lengths he went to in order to make her see how beautiful she was to him. I had to giggle at Holly's timing for her confession of her feelings, and Chris's reaction.
The suspense of the story was a slow build to an intense conclusion. From Chris's initial suspicion of Holly, to his quick realization that she was the wronged party, his protectiveness came out in full force. I liked seeing the steps he took in order to bring the McCay's down. I liked seeing the help he got from Sam and Annabelle, as they all were very careful to make sure that everything was done in a way that would ensure success. The final confrontation was really exciting as all the pieces came together perfectly. I especially loved the dog!
Also running through the book were the three ongoing storylines. First, were the continuing attempts to catch the Alphabet Killer. We discovered who it was in an earlier book, but so far she has evaded capture. We've learned a little bit more about the motivation, and have seen the killings escalate in frequency. Also going forward is the one clue per sibling that their father is providing in regards to the Coltons' mother's burial place. This time it was Chris's turn to visit their father and receive the clue. Two things came out of his visit. The clue, and also a chance for Chris to gain some closure with regards to his relationship with his father. We also see Chris and Holly try to decipher the meaning of the clue, and actually make what appears to be a significant discovery. The third storyline is that of the search for the youngest Colton, Josie. Chris has been looking for her for six years, and in this book discovers some information that enables him to start putting together pieces of the puzzle. I loved seeing what conclusion he comes to. A surprise visitor at his engagement party provides the last of the pieces. I can't wait to see how these stories progress in the next book.
*copy received in exchange for honest review.
*copy received in exchange for honest review.