Synopsis from Goodreads: When a dead body swan-dives from a balcony into the pool at a wedding, gossip comes to a halt about disgraced paralegal and former rodeo queen Emily—whose husband left her for a woman who’s really a man. Enter Jack, a secretive attorney and sexy mix of cowboy and Indian. She refuses to work for him until she learns about the disappearance of the six-year old daughter of his notorious client Sofia, the wedding shooter, who is also an illegal immigrant. Emily feels a strange affinity with the girl and launches a desperate search for her. Bodies pile up in her wake across Texas and New Mexico as the walls around her own secrets begin to crumble, and the authorities question whether the child is anything but a figment of her imagination.
Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Skipjack Publishing, 2015.
How acquired: Gifted to me by the author.
First line: I wedged myself up to the bar between an urban cowboy and a sequined octogenarian with a cigarette dangling from her lips.
My thoughts: Emily has come back to her hometown after a special dinner date with her husband, wherein she was going to announce to him that she is pregnant, was interrupted by Stormy, his cross dressing boyfriend (girlfriend?). Now she’s back in her mom’s house, remembering what it’s like to live among small town gossips. That urban cowboy from the first line turns out to be a criminal attorney who just so happens to need a paralegal. Emily has never worked in criminal law before, and doesn't particularly want to, but grudgingly accepts the job.
The story is told in first person point of view, and Emily is a self-deprecating and fun, and funny, narrator. Her life has basically fallen apart around her, and she’s struggling to hold it together. Jack is a somewhat strange but good looking laconic loner, who never seems to answer a direct question, insists that Emily loudly ring a bell each morning when she arrives at work, which makes Emily wonder just what he’s doing back in his office, and who has a little white poodle with a pink collar who comes to work with him.
Emily and Jack are both standing by the pool when Sofia, a hotel janitorial worker, shoots the man who then falls over the balcony into the pool. Sofia becomes Jack’s newest client, but she won’t tell them why she shot the man, or answer any of their questions or do anything to help Jack come up with a defense for her – she just begs them to find her missing daughter.
Of the secondary characters, Wallace, a CPS worker who is also trying to find the little girl, really stood out. Neat and fastidious, one of my favorite scenes was when Emily picks him up in her trashed out car for the first time. But there were lots of other scenes that also made me smile or even laugh.
For the first half of the book, it was a very amusing and fluffy little story. And then suddenly it got a bit gritty, as Emily becomes more and more determined to find little Valentina. Somewhere in the second half I became so engrossed, and so invested in Emily and her search, that I stayed up reading much too late one night (so thanks for that book hangover headache I had the next day Ms. Hutchins!). And when I started reading again the next night it got really serious, with Emily in a pretty dangerous situation, and I was practically holding my breath until it was resolved.
I’d put this more in the mystery genre than romance, with some adventure thrown in. Lively and lighthearted, yet ultimately dealing with some serious subject matter. I very much enjoyed this book, from a new to me author.