Fatal Embrace by Aris Whittier: Review

Fatal Embrace



Synopsis from Goodreads: High-spirited horse trainer Jessica Stanson stumbles into the perfect job on one of the most elite ranches in Montana. Or at least it would be if her boss, ex-detective Michael Carven, stopped acting like he didn’t want her there. Jessica has to prove herself to him on the ranch, and also try to penetrate his armor to get to the man inside. Michael Carven is a man who has left a difficult past behind him, and now works at his dream job raising horses under the Montana sky. But he knows that the past has a way of coming back to him, and soon enough, it does. A wave of violence hits the nearby small town of Riverside, nestled deep in the mountains, as a cunning serial killer preys on the population.
Against his will, Michael finds himself both drawn into the case and coming to care for his independent new trainer. And if having a killer on the loose wasn’t enough, his two worlds collide when Jessica becomes the only material witness in the case. Before it is over, Michael and Jessica will put everything they know and hold dear on the line to catch a vicious, cunning killer – and to protect each other as well.

Source: Author for a fair and honest review

My Rating: 3½/5 stars

My Review: Every once in awhile a reader will come across a book that simply cannot be put down.  When you find that book and begin reading, all else in your world ceases to exist.  The dishes don’t get done, the laundry goes unfolded, and the dirty toilet can just wait one more day!  Most recently, I found that wondrous sensation with Aris Whittier’s fast-paced and well-written romantic-suspense novel, Fatal Embrace.

Whittier opens her novel with Michael, a hard-working if sullen cowboy who owns and operates a horse training facility; a place that has become his sanctuary since leaving his job as a police detective.   Whittier also quickly introduces a second main character, the witty, sarcastic, and somewhat naughty Jessica Stanson, a young woman who has come to Michael’s ranch to work as a trainer.  The opening scene between these two characters does much to set the stage for not only their relationship but for the novel as a whole.   The opening scene is well thought out and well written.  It is a primary motivator in engaging the reader so completely.

Just beyond the opening scene we discover that the communities surrounding the ranch have recently been plagued by a viscous killer who is targeting young women.   To date, the crimes have gone unsolved and as such, a very reluctant Michael has agreed to serve as a consultant to the police in an effort to solve a seemingly unsolvable case.  As Michael becomes obsessed with finding the killer he also discovers that Jessica is a good sounding board for his thoughts and concerns.  This arrangement could have become awkward as Jessica is a horse trainer.  Whittier has managed to successfully weave Jessica into Michael’s world.  Of course, the two also discover a mutual attraction to one another – DUH and YIPPEE!

The crimes, Jessica’s presence, and the pressure to find the killer all combine to create a novel that is bursting with sexual and psychological tension. This tension continues to mount throughout the novel as Whittier leads us toward the end.  She skillfully draws all of the plots, sub-plots, and characters together into what should have been a really spectacular finish.   As I headed into this section of the book, I was completely lost in this world and couldn’t wait to discover the fate of all involved.  Unfortunately, I was completely disappointed.  Where the book failed for me was in how quickly everything was resolved.  What had been a well-paced and exciting read became a horse race (pardon the pun) to the finish.  Whittier should have devoted more time and space to the completion of this book.  Each of the major revelations needs time to sink before moving on to the next.  Was I disappointed by anything else?  No, absolutely not!  Would I recommend this book to a friend?  Absolutely!  Fatal Embrace is an engrossing tale with excellent dialogue, fun characters, and a smart plot that is, unfortunately, lacking conviction in the conclusion.

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