Back in 2012 I read Kendra Elliot’s first “Bone Secrets” novel “Hidden” and I loved it. By the end of the book I realized that she was an author to really keep an eye on.
Because she had managed to find the perfect balance between suspense and romance. Then, a few months later I read it’s sequel (and I use that word very off-handedly because technically they can be read as stand-alone novels) “Chilled” and then “Buried” (which followed in 2013.) After 3 novels I came to the conclusion that I had been right. Elliot was indeed a talented author. Her stories were solid, her characters well developed, AND they made for fantastic easy-but-not-dummed-down reading. But I also noticed something else…they were plot predictable.
Not the “crime” itself (because those are about as twisty as possible) but the manner in which the story unfolded.
Step One: Introduce the crime.
Step Two: The characters.
Step Three: The murder (yes, he/she always has their time to shine.)
Step four: The romance.
Step five: Collision off all, development of relationship….sis, boom, bah! The end.
And while “technically” there is nothing wrong with this (and obviously I still enjoy Elliot’s writing and ability to craft an entertaining story) the similarities between them make it difficult to write a review that doesn’t sound like re-hashed trash.
Thankfully (*sigh*) Elliot took a risk while writing “Alone” (in regards to the “romance” aspect anyways) and put her story in a blender. Chop, chop, spin, spin…freshness!
There are 2 specific things that really stood out to me while reading “Alone.”
First, the two love interest in this story are not new and burgeoning, instead…they are past lovers with a difficult past. This simple decision allowed Elliot to built her characters differently than she has in the past (meet/attraction/hero-moment/ride off into the sunset.) There was an entirely new and distinctive tension, a “history backed” level of overprotectiveness (which is very important towards the end of the novel ) and a combativeness that was absent from her other couples. The conversations between the two are weighted differently (due to their familiarity) and the flashbacks that encase the couple are not singular entities, but rather coupled remembrances. (They add to both sides of the lead character’s stories, not just one.)
Second, Elliot’s use of cults and historical lore to drive both the physical structure of the novel (locations/surrounding etc) as well as the character.
There are not 1 but 2 different crime scenes inside the pages of this novel. One that is in the present, one that is in the past (presented to the reader by way of hearsay, old bones, and cold case files.) Both are suspiciously similar and (truth be told) creepy. (Yeah, I said creepy. Don’t judge me.) They are also triggers for SEVERAL different characters. (Note: Elliot isn’t afraid to introduce new characters on a whim. They help heighten confusion in the reader, taking them further from the truth in order to shock and awe later.) Everyone is allowed to have a voice, and tell their side of the story. (Which is why I said “hearsay.”) Just imagine how that relates to 6 dead girls and a gallon of grape Kool-aid. (Sorry, I had to say it…you know y’all were all thinking it.) There are pages of “visual stimulation” (that’s code for descriptive passages) from each character. WHICH, in turn, helps to build the walls of Elliot’s fictional cult. (Their beliefs, motto, outlook on say…unplanned teenage pregnancy.) The construction also adds insight into the mindset of it’s leaders and followers.
So what does all of this excessive gibber-jabber mean? Well it means that Elliot has started to shake things up a bit. She has managed to outdo herself in the character department, and create a more realistic couple by drawing from their past as well as their present. She has managed to maintain her level of entertainment while exploring new adventures. AND feed her readers a story full of intrigue, deception, compulsion and lust.
There are idiosyncrasies to every writers style, and Elliot is no different (aka: there are a few things that might bother you. For example her fast paced endings and open ended questions. – Though most of those are answered in other novels.) BUT, if you enjoy romantic suspense you are going to enjoy this book. It’s action packed and full of heart. (Ie: the ice queen finally melts.) Also…it does a fantastic job of setting up her new Mason Callahan series (which I’ve read and also found to be above par.)
Happy reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: “It’s okay to admit you’ve had your heart broken. Most people have, a time or two. It acknowledges that you are human. Some of us like to think we’re superhuman, but we’re not. We bleed. Whether it’s from a vein or the pain in our heart that no once can see.” – Alone