After a disastrous Middle East mission ends his six-year Army Ranger career, Finn McGregor needs some downtime. A peaceful month in the woods sounds like the perfect way to decompress. But peace isn’t on the agenda once he crosses paths with publishing executive Dana Lewis, a neighbor who is nursing wounds of her own. Someone seems bent on disrupting her stay in the lakeside cabin she inherited from her grandfather. As Finn and Dana work together to discover who is behind the disquieting pranks, the incidents begin to take on a menacing tone. And when it becomes apparent Dana’s foe may have deadly intent, Finn finds himself back in the thick of the action–ready or not.
Maybe his brothers were right.
Maybe this was a mistake.
Gripping his mug of coffee, Finn McGregor pushed through the door of the cabin, into middle-of-the-night darkness. The April air was chilly, but the brush of coolness against his clammy skin eased his jitters a tad.
Melting into the shadows of the rustic porch, he took a sip of the strong brew and did a sweep of woods unbrightened by even a sliver of moon. The blackness was absolute . . . yet it didn’t raise his anxiety level one iota. Darkness had often been his friend. A significant tactical advantage in certain circumstances, in fact. Like the night his unit . . .
His hand jerked, and hot coffee sloshed over the rim of the mug, burning his fingers.
Shaking off the liquid, he gritted his teeth.
Spooked by an owl.
How dumb was that?
Good thing Mac and Lance weren’t here. He could picture them, arms folded in that intimidating pose all the McGregor men had mastered, reminding him that hanging out alone in the middle of nowhere might not be the best game plan at this stage of his recovery.
He was here now, and he wasn’t going back – not yet, anyway. Not after two nights. His McGregor ego would never let him admit defeat this fast.
More than likely, though, he just needed a few days to acclimate. The stack of books he’d brought with him should keep him occupied. And he might chop some wood with that ax he’d found in the shed. Nothing beat manual labor for exorcising restless energy.
He lifted the mug and took a swig. Once he settled in, adjusted to the slower pace, and –
Finn choked on the coffee as a woman’s distant scream ripped through the night.
What the . . . ?!
Still sputtering, he pushed off from the wall, adrenaline surging, every muscle taut.
Five seconds passed.
The owl hooted again.
Yards from where he stood, the underbrush rustled – a foraging rodent or raccoon, no doubt. Nothing sinister.
The forest remained quiet.
Throttling his paranoia, he exhaled and forced his brain to shift into analytical mode.
Fact one: The sound had been distant, and somewhat indistinct.
Fact two: His cabin was surrounded by a national forest more populated by deer than people. As far as he could tell – based on the single narrow gravel lane off the main drag he’d passed before turning onto his own access road – he had only one relatively close human neighbor.
Fact three: This was rural Missouri, not downtown St. Louis or some crime-ridden –
His hand jerked again, sloshing more coffee. It was a woman’s scream. He was not being paranoid. This was not a tray dropping in the base cafeteria that just sounded like an explosion.
This was the real deal.
Tangled Webs is the third and final book in Irene Hannon’s Men of Valor series, featuring the three McGregor brothers – each of whom is making the transition from military to civilian life. Unlike his brothers, though, Finn has no plans to go into law enforcement – a fact that made my ears perk up. In my review of the previous novel in this series I commented that Hannon’s romantic suspense novels were all sounding too much the same, one reason being the ‘I really like you, but I need to keep this professional’ line that has defined the romance plots so far. Change was in the air!
Except, I’m not sure it really made much difference for me in the end. Finn and Dana were still similar in personality to Hannon’s previous characters, I still felt there was more emphasis on the physical attraction than the emotional connection (and it was still insta-attraction), and there was never any question of whether these two would get together; just a matter of not rushing it. It was all a bit ‘ho-hum’ for me.
I’m also finding Hannon’s writing ‘on the nose’ when it comes to the romance – although, to be fair, I think it is my tastes that have changed rather than her writing. There’s lots of talk about ‘high-wattage electricity’ pinging between the characters, and how no one else has ever made them feel like this, but we’re always told how the character is feeling rather than being left to intuit it from what we’re shown. And when the characters shared their first kiss then actually talked about how earth-moving it was . . . I don’t know. Maybe I’ve read books where that worked and I just don’t remember, but it was one of several exchanges that were too cheesy for me.
But on to the suspense plot – because this was the more engaging aspect of the novel for me; particularly the story of police chief, Roger Burnett. Burnett’s wife has Alzheimer’s, and her care is costing him an arm and a leg. It’s at the point where he can no longer afford the care she is receiving, but he refuses to settle for a lower price (and therefore, quality) option. It is imperative that he find a means of funding her ongoing care, and when he receives a letter confessing to a crime that happened nearly fifty years ago – along with the location of the loot – temptation’s voice is too loud to ignore.
In the process of secretly retrieving the loot – from the middle of the lake at the cabin where Dana is staying – he uncovers another crime, and his problems multiply; especially when he discovers he knows the perpetrator, who makes it clear that he, in turn, knows about the Chief’s secret retrieval. Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!
Having the point of view of all four of these characters took away the mystery, but it allowed the reader to experience Burnett’s internal battle as his desire for secrecy warred against preventing the escalating attempts by the perpetrator to scare Dana off the property – not to mention his desire to put an end to the perpetrator’s original criminal activity. This was by far the most engaging tension in the novel. We could also see everything converging at the end, while Dana and Finn remained in the dark…
Irene Hannon’s Heroes of Quantico series was one of the first romantic suspense series I ever read, and I’ve read all of her releases in the genre since, so I feel a little sad that I’m not enjoying them as much as I used to. But that said, readers who enjoy Hannon’s style of writing will find plenty to like in this finale to the series, including cameos by both Mac and Lance.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This did not influence my opinion of this novel.
Release date: 4 October 2016
Author’s website: http://www.irenehannon.com/
Read my review of Thin Ice.