Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Covert Kisses - Jane Godman (HRS #1942 - Apr 2017)

Series: Sons of Stillwater (Book 1)

Coincidence? The beauty who washes up on Mayor Cameron Delaney's private beach eerily resembles his dead girlfriend, Carla. But Laurie Carter, Carla's lookalike cousin, is actually an undercover detective. She's on the job, investigating Cameron's connection to a human-trafficking ring. Laurie knows she must keep her cover -- but she's struggling to deceive the man she finds irresistible…

When Cameron discovers why Laurie is in town, he's furious to realize he's being framed -- and stunned at his sudden feelings for the lovely agent. But as they uncover the traffickers, a savage serial killer targets Laurie. Can Cameron save the life of the woman he's come to care for…and unmask the threat haunting his family and Stillwater?

Good book. Laurie is an undercover detective who uses her resemblance to her cousin to make contact with Cameron. He is suspected of using his trucking company to run a trafficking ring. When Laurie appears out of the lake where Carla drowned, Cameron is understandably a bit freaked out. Her resemblance to the girlfriend he is still grieving is amazing but the stirrings of attraction aren't exactly welcome. Laurie knows the effect she is having on him and feels rather guilty about it, but she has to keep her mind on her mission. An invitation to dinner gives her the first opportunity to get to know him.

Their dinner out was a bit weird. Cameron is the town mayor and is very well known, as was Carla. For him to appear in a restaurant with a look-alike gets everyone's attention. Two of those people are the county sheriff and Cameron's half-brother Vincente. Grant Becker has been a good friend of Cameron's since they were kids. Vincente's relationship with Cameron is a bit more complicated. Both of them react rather oddly to Laurie. When Laurie returns to her rental cabin, she discovers a flower arrangement identical to one that Cameron had mentioned Carla receiving from a secret admirer. She is disturbed by that and contacts her FBI handler.

Though she is there to investigate Cameron and the trafficking ring, her instincts tell her there is more to Carla's death than just an accident. A meeting with her handler ends up with him dead, and Laurie on the run with Cameron. He was stunned when he arrived to pick her up for a date to find her with a gun and a dead body, but his protective instincts kick in. Those instincts take a hit when she confesses the truth of who she is and why she's there.

Now the two of them have two objectives. First, find out the truth about the trafficking - is one of Cameron's brothers behind it? How is it being accomplished and why is Cameron being set up to take the blame? Second, find out who is stalking Laurie and stop him. One of the first things they have to decide is whether Bryce and Vincente can be trusted. That conversation with the brothers brings out some very interesting family dynamics and eventually reveals the truth about what is going on. But that takes a back seat to the danger that Laurie is in.

Laurie's investigation reveals not just a stalker but a suspected serial killer. They figure out who it is early on, but they need the proof to stop him. Unfortunately, he seems to be one step ahead of them at all times. There are several tense scenes where they are face to face, each knowing the truth but unable to do anything about it. The final confrontation is intense, as the killer has Laurie and is setting up her death. Laurie uses her brains to try to get out of it, while Cameron and his brothers stage a rescue. This was very intense as I wondered how long Laurie was going to be able to hold him off.

The whole trafficking scenario that initially brought Laurie to Stillwater ended up being a fairly minor storyline. It did serve to bring Cameron, Bryce and Vincente closer as brothers. I liked seeing them finally start to work together instead of their previous uncooperative attitudes.

The relationship between Cameron and Laurie developed very quickly. There was immediate attraction, something that neither one welcomed. It made Cameron feel guilty that he was actually feeling something for another woman even though Carla had only been dead a year. He was also angry at himself for feeling anything at all for her after he found out why she was in Stillwater. I liked that he was concerned that what he felt for Laurie was tangled up in her resemblance to Carla, and was pleased to see his logical and mature way to thin through it. I liked his protectiveness toward her, even when he was still mad and hurt by her deception. Laurie was not happy at being attracted to a man who is suspected of such terrible crimes. Fortunately, it doesn't take her long to trust her own instincts that he is innocent of the crime. She has her own worries about her resemblance to Carla. I liked seeing how they confront those worries head on when they finally give in to their attraction.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading the next.

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