Author: Rebecca Marks

Publisher: Black Opal Books

ISBN:  978-1-626947-49-8

Dana, an ex-NYPD cop, is pregnant. In the previous book, she accused Alex, the father, of murdering the patients in the nursing home where he works. He was cleared of all charges, but getting back together with Dana and the progress of the pregnancy takes about 50% of this novel. That’s the romance. The other story revolves around two actors who have an illicit affair as they rehearse for a coming show directed by Dana’s friend Marilyn. The actors are murdered, so Dana can’t resist trying to solve the crime. That’s the mystery. So we have a romance/mystery.

I suspect the author uses the romance story to hook female readers. I fear she will lose some male readers who will react negatively to the pregnancy story, though. However, while I found it to be a bit excessive, I also found it to be very human. It also contrasts nicely with that tough-cop persona that Dana has: there’s more to being a strong and smart woman than being an ex-cop. I enjoyed that part of the novel but not nearly as much as the mystery part.

The novel starts with the murders, not an unusual hook for a mystery, but then it ventures into a long backstory about making up with Alex and Dana’s pregnancy. When the reader finally gets to where Dana is solving the crime, s/he’ll find some interesting reading because of what the victims are involved in and their cultural milieu. The tri-state area (NY, NJ, and Connecticut) is known for its diversity, and Long Island is no exception.

That said, the novel as a whole isn’t nearly as intense as the first one in this series, which I also reviewed. Some of the same characters are back, and the author does a good job of developing them further. The cultural tensions and excesses that affect the murder victims and the murderer are interesting too. Don’t write this off as a cozy mystery because of the romance. It contains some important themes.

Some further points about the plot: Dana runs hot and cold about POIs and that seems to contradict her self-appraisal that she’s a good judge of character. The author builds up the guiltless more than the guilty; that’s more than simple misdirects. There’s also a third parallel story about Dana’s father’s worsening Alzheimer’s, but it’s not very developed. Finally, the author misses a chance to describe some terrific Long Island scenery, especially as seen from the ferry going from Port Jefferson across the Sound to Connecticut.

There are a few faux pas in the editing. The author uses first person present tense…and present and past are often confused as a result. There are some typos (mostly with quotation marks) and some confusing sentences like “…the morning sickness…is still not completely gone—each of which consists of some good protein and good vegetables.” And “’What about her husband?’ ‘He’s a bit creepy, though.’” On the other hand, there are some clever turns-of-phrase. In one instance, for example, she makes a horrible cliché refreshingly new: “I would wait for you until hell froze over and the little devils went ice skating….”

The minor flaws didn’t affect my enjoyment of this novel. The author set out to entertain the reader and accomplished that for yours truly. I’ll probably go back and read #2 now.