13 January 2015

All Night Long

Synopsis from Goodreads: Shy, studious Irene Stenson and wild, privileged Pamela Webb had been the best of friends for one short high school summer. Their friendship ended the night Pamela dropped Irene off at home-and Irene walked in to discover her parents' bodies on the kitchen floor. It was ruled a murder-suicide, and Irene fled the northern California town of Dunsley. But seventeen years later, when Pamela sends a cryptic e-mail asking for help, Irene returns to her hometown to find her old friend has died suddenly, leaving behind a lot of ugly, unanswered questions.

Caught up in a firestorm of desperate deceit and long-buried secrets, Irene knows it would probably be smarter to just pack up and leave Dunsley behind again, but her reporter's instinct-and her own hunger to know the truth-compel her to extend her stay at the local lodge. Even more compelling is the man who runs the place-a hazel-eyed ex-Marine who's as used to giving orders as Irene is to ignoring them. Luke Danner can see the terror beneath Irene Stenson's confident exterior-and he is intent on protecting her. But he is also driven by passions of his own, and together they will risk far more than local gossip to sort out what happened to Pamela Webb, and what really happened on that long-ago summer night.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Jove Books, 2007.

How acquired: Through BookCrossing.  

My thoughts: I've never read anything by Jayne Ann Krentz before, which is surprising considering how popular and prolific she is, and that my mom has been talking her up to me for ages. Or maybe that's why. I have read one of her Amanda Quick books, WITH THIS RING, back in 2002, which at the time I simply noted was “pretty good”, though I don't remember anything about it now.

Anyway, moving along. I was quite engaged with the story and the heroine from the very beginning. The prologue opens with teenage Irene coming home late one night to find her parents both dead. Now, seventeen years later, Irene has received a cryptic email from the girl who was her best friend that fateful summer, asking her to come back to Dunsley and meet with her. She checks into Sunrise on the Lake Lodge to await her meeting with Pamela.

Luke is the new owner of the lodge. If you went through a list of the traits I love in a hero, you'd definitely tick off boxes for Luke. He's an ex-Marine. He's closed off. He's emotionally wounded. He's intimidating. He's witty. He's a little arrogant, barking out instructions to his guests as if they were attending drill camp rather than patronizing his business. He gets annoyed whenever a new guest shows up. I loved his interactions with the guests, and with Irene, who looks askance at him quite often.
“You know, I'm starting to think that's the biggest problem with the innkeeping business.”
“The clientele. They're undisciplined, untrained and unpredictable.” He watched the Addisons climb into an aging Ford pickup and drive off toward Cabin Number Ten. “Yeah, gotta say, if it weren't for the paying guests, this wouldn't be a bad line of work.”
When Irene can't get ahold of Pamela, she drives to her old friend's home, only to find her dead. She quickly becomes caught up in investigating her friend's death, partly due to her reporter's instincts, but also because she almost desperately wants to know what her friend had planned to tell her, suspecting it might have been something about her parents' deaths. While their deaths were ruled a murder-suicide, she's never believed that, and she becomes determined to find out the truth – about their deaths, and about Pamela's.

The dialogue between Luke and Irene flows naturally and realistically, not to mention humorously.
“Something wrong?” she asked politely.
“Where are you headed?”
She reached up and removed the glasses with a slow, thoughtful air.
“You know, I've stayed in a wide variety of lodging establishments in my life, but this is the first time I've had to account for my comings and goings to the proprietor.”
“We do things a little differently here at the Sunrise on the Lake Lodge.”
Luke feels protective of Irene even before he gets to know her, sticking his nose in her business, following her unobtrusively, and fortunately showing up just in time to be there when she needs him. Irene is very independent. She's a journalist for a small paper, and has no family left. She's used to being on her own and taking care of herself. But when Luke steps up and offers a shoulder, she leans on it gratefully, and I liked that she didn't go overboard with butt-out-I-don’t-need-your-manly-help protestations.

I loved the characters of both Luke and Irene. She has nightmares and many other PTSD symptoms, such as fear of the dark. Luke also has PTSD symptoms, from his time in combat, and relatives who are pressuring him to come back to the family's wine making business, which he has no interest in, and to see a therapist, which he also has no interest in. While it felt like their relationship was set up slowly, when you look at the time frame of the story it was actually fairly quick, but it felt right and not rushed, which is a testament to the author's writing and character building. There are lots of supporting players, some quirky, some not, but all with their own distinct personalities.

As Irene and Luke become more and more embroiled in the mystery surrounding the deaths, it's clear there is a huge story – and scoop for Irene -- involved. It's also clear to the reader that Irene's own life is in danger, though she doesn't always seem to realize that, despite her constant fear. The plot is fairly twisty and turny, and I was kept guessing about what direction it would take next.

A good mystery/suspense with some gentle romance thrown in. I’m glad now to know that I have several other Krentz books in my TBR pile as I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

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