Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Zia Westfield's Two Great Suspense Books in Series! But...

When I saw the storyline for Book 2, I immediately thought it would be good to read Book 1 first. What I discovered was that there was little relationship between the two books...and had totally different characters and no continuing reference back to the first book. Both books have excellent stories and I thoroughly enjoyed the stories...But... 

By the second book, I was seeing an obvious issue for me--one I can only consider as what has been referred to as, formula books... This issue was first discussed for Harlequin books which does indeed have a specific formula... I haven't made a study of them, as obviously I am not a fan...

It states at the back of her books:

Zia Westfield creates suspenseful, exciting stories with romance at the heart of them. There is nothing more thrilling than watching two people fall in love despite the odds and the danger surrounding their every move.

Westfield uses what could be referred to as a formula which was ...Boy meets girl, both are immediately attracted, both have past baggage, both fall in love within hours or days of meeting, both men are in "security," both women are hurt but have made it back to be strong women, both have a short time frame in which something must be accomplished...and both the men and women use similar dialogue related to their relationships with the other... even sexual thoughts...

For the first book, I enjoyed this interchange and was intrigued by the way each individual's back story was played out; by the second book, I was somewhat bored and irritated that I knew what was going to be said and done as the intimacy developed. Even with different words and different situations, the intimate story was NOT indeed "more thrilling than watching two people fall in love..."If you've read it once, well it's not so thrilling when you read the same "moves," fears, and lack of self-confidence, by the next two characters... and possibly subsequent books.

Which is a shame because though her romance thriller formula did not work into the second book with me; it should definitely not be used in further series books, in my opinion.  On the other hand, Zia Westfield's suspense stories are spectacular, well written, unique and creatively done, and keeps readers interested from the beginning to the end... Readers should not be able to think of each character as anything other than unique...When we find ourselves thinking, was that Gemma or Kelsey that we are thinking about, that's a clue... And if Sam and Jack are alike in temperament, feelings about emotional support, plus a bad background...what is it that makes them different? What I do know that I could not differentiate between either of the four characters except by their professional interests and activities in any real way after I read both books... Should I be able to? After having read hundreds of series books, this is the first time this issue has come to mind...Good or Bad? You decide.

I hope Westfield starts to apply her unique creativity to her entire book...The romance should be part of the overall book and not seen as something separate from that overall romantic suspense story. By using a formula for the romance, it feels like we can merely insert each new man or woman and they will, in essence, do the same old romantic moves that have been established for the series... 

I'd love to hear some feedback related to my thoughts on this issue!

“You know I’m a reporter with the Carville Gazette, right?” Since O’Malley chose that moment to deliver her drink, she waited until he moved away from the table. “I’m sure you’re familiar with the paper, Detective Donahue, given the number of times you’ve been in it.” She took a sip from her cola and eyed him over the top of her glass.
“Like I said, I know who you are and I don’t do interviews.” Even his Captain knew better than to stick him in front of a bunch of press vultures.  
“I know. Your feelings for my profession have been made crystal clear on more than one occasion.” She cocked her head to the side, a frown working its way across her forehead. “You know you aren’t what I expected.” 
“What did you expect?” 
“Someone more arrogant, more full of himself. Someone hung up on the power of the badge.” 
“What makes you think I’m not?” He didn’t know why he was prolonging the conversation. He should just get up and leave. He had no use for reporters, and though Gemma Fitzgibbons almost tempted him enough to rethink that, his scars were fresh enough that simply sitting across from her made his shoulder blades itch. 
“Call it reporter intuition, I don’t know. I don’t like contradictions and you’re a contradiction. Open the envelope, detective.” 
Reluctantly, Jack reached for the envelope and pulled it closer. He let it remain there unopened and tapped the table with his fingers as he examined his companion carefully. She seemed to be on her last nerve and the tension she generated suggested she wasn’t as comfortable with this situation as she pretended to be. Now why was that? There were no markings on the envelope, nothing to indicate where it came from or what was inside. 
Cursing the bad luck that had led him to O’Malley’s for a drink tonight, he told himself to get over it and lifted the flap that had been tucked in rather than sealed. He tipped the envelope so that the contents spilled out across the table. Photos landed on the table surface. Jack picked one up and studied the grainy dark image. A man who looked a hell of a lot like him passed a white substance to a greasy-looking leather-clad bum. It had every appearance of a drug buy. Each photo he fingered showed his look-alike selling drugs to at least three different customers. As the images coalesced in his mind, fury rose up like a skyrocket. 
“What the hell kind of stunt are you pulling, Ms. Fitzgibbons?”
“Are you denying the man in the picture is you?” 
“Damn right, I’m denying it.” He lifted one of the photos. They had to have been doctored in some way. With technology nowadays, anything was possible. He’d need a professional to analyze them.
“How can you deny it when you’re right there in each frame?” 
He leaned forward getting as much in her face as he could with the table between them. “I’m denying it because it’s a setup, that’s why. I never posed for these photos or was in whatever dive that’s pictured here. If you bought these off of someone, you’ve been had.” She’d been a dupe. He’d buy that. But it still burned his gut that someone was trying to implicate him in a crime. 
Gemma tapped a nail on one picture. “You’re exchanging drugs for cash in this one with a woman, and again in this one with a man. You’re a homicide detective and my sources say you aren’t involved in narcotics busts. How do you explain these scenes?”
“I don’t have to. I know they’re fakes. Somebody sold you a bill of goods, lady. Get over it. And I suggest you sharpen those reporter instincts of yours.” He pulled his wallet out of his pocket and yanked out some bills, which he tossed on the table. He made to slide out of the booth when her next words made him pause. 
“I took those pictures.” She gripped one photo of him standing with a lowlife scum. The lighting was dim and his face was in profile. The quality was a bit grainy as if from a cell phone rather than a regular digital camera. Even so, the man in the picture looked a lot like him, except it damn well wasn’t. “I was chasing down another story when I saw you.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I was curious. I started snapping shots...

Gemma Fitzgibbons is a sharp, smart, and snazzy investigative reporter that was moving fast to grab first-page bylines on important stories. It was an interesting by-product of another story, when she happened to sight Detective Donahue in a sleaze bar, apparently selling drugs.  Donahue was furious because it had been unscrupulous reporters who had badgered and wrote about his father when a scandal had happened years ago. He wasn't going to have that happen to him...

I admire that Gemma went directly to the source to discuss what she had seen, and she wasn't about to let him off without fully investigating what had actually happened...

But before that happened, both were caught up in a much more important story. Gemma had explained why she was in the stripper joint talking to a potential witness, and immediately Jack had recognized the location, how it connected to a murder. Gemma had found a possible witness that the police had not discovered...and Jack immediately moved to meet with her to go over what she had seen...

When Jack meets Gemma's family--an aunt and a niece, Dana takes a liking to Jack and as security becomes an issue, Jack becomes more involved and concerned enough to want to ensure Gemma and her family are protected.

The amazing twists and turns in this suspense story are pulled together in such a way that all situations that had occurred in both Gemma and Jack's early lives were brought forward for a new examination...and resolution... It's a book where you have to say, "I didn't see that coming..." The type of book I love...

It's also the type of book that you really can't share too much without giving parts of the story away...  This first book was totally satisfying and can be highly recommended...

He pulled the SUV as close to the front porch as he could, but he was still soaked by the time he reached the top step. He pushed the bell next to the door and prepared to meet the crazy cat lady. 
The door opened, and Sam stared dumbfounded. The woman before him was dressed in shawls and a long dark grey skirt, and had one cat in her arms while another curled up on a straight back chair that butted up against the wall. But she was years younger—younger than him, he’d guess—and punch-in-the-gut beautiful. None of it made sense and he said the first words that popped into his mind. 
“What happened to the other crazy cat lady?”
Kelsey Tremayne winced at the question. When she’d opened the door, she hadn’t been sure what to expect. The security system needed a major upgrade. She had barely been able to hear the detective identify himself, and the rain and poor camera quality had made it impossible to see his badge clearly. Though she’d debated the risk in letting him approach, she had decided to chance it. She gripped the pepper spray she held in her hand which was concealed by the shawls. It hadn’t been easy to call the police given her history with them, in fact, her stomach still felt queasy over the decision, but she needed the incidents on record.
Crazy cat lady, indeed. “Please come in, Detective.” She stepped back and petted Sabina, the white Persian mix that had sought comfort in her arms when the thunder had started. The detective entered, dripping water on the wood floor, and surveyed her from head to foot. 
He was tall, over six feet, if she had to guess, with a rangy build, brown close-cropped hair, and a stubborn jaw. Kelsey could imagine what he saw. A not-very-tall, not-very-short, brown-haired, brown-eyed female with more cats than friends. Okay, he wouldn’t be able to guess the last, but it wouldn’t take long for him to stumble onto the truth. Then again maybe he already knew it. After all, he’d asked about the other cat lady...
The detective splayed his hands on his hips and watched her. “Ms. Tremayne, you called the station and reported a burglary.” Kelsey wet her lips and wished he’d asked for a drink. Her mouth felt dry and her throat parched...
He wouldn’t believe her. She could tell from his stance and from the way his gaze swept over the room. He had made up his mind about her. Maybe he’d even heard the rumors about her. He’d obviously heard the ones about her aunt or why would he have called her the “crazy cat lady?” Suddenly the room seemed to shrink. Her pulse rate increased and sweat broke out on her brow. A panic attack was imminent if she didn’t do something to head it off. That would be all he would need to see to confirm that she was as crazy as her aunt. She couldn’t let him. “I’m sorry, detective, for wasting your time. You should go. I made a mistake. I’m sorry. Please chalk it up to the horrible weather...”

This second in the series, taking place in Carville has a wonderful diverse and tentacled story line that pulls readers in and keeps them interested and trying to project what would be happening. I did pretty good but at the closing I was feeling like a major event had not been closed out...Thankfully, the Epilogue told me everything and more that I had been worried about! 

Two abductions, disappearances of teenage girls had taken place years ago. One had returned and she is now the main character, Kelsey Treymayne. Kelsey's aunt had recently died and she has returned to the family home to help decide what to do--her father and her had been named as co-owners.

Unfortunately Kelsey had lost all memory of the entire summer when she had been taken, but had received rough treatment from the police and others in the community, when they decided that she had to have been the one who killed the other girl, although she had never been found. Unfortunately, Kelsey was very cautious about interacting with police.

Needless to say, Kelsey was not anxious to return to Carville. Her aunt had apparently become reclusive, and a hoarder, so much so that Kelsey wasn't sure she could clean out the house in the time she had before she had to go back to work. The large home was oppressive, dark and unwelcoming... But, perhaps it was made more so, because she had seen a man looking in her window, who had disappeared when she screamed. She had earlier called the police to report a potential burglar, but had become so upset that she sent the officer away...

Now, she knew she really needed help... And the first thing Detective Sam Carmichael had done when she called him back, was to find a wire fixed across a step going to the basement. He knew it would have been bad, whether it had been there since her aunt had been alive, or whether it had been placed there since Kelsey had arrived. The woman was indeed in danger... and prints outside the window where she had seen the man was definite proof...

Before long she was in a car accident... There was no doubt, somebody was planning on hurting Kelsey...But Who?

Two wonderful characters add to the flavor and enjoyment of the book. Sam finds a stray dog and names him Knight... and Kelsey is called by a local social worker to see if she was work with a found runaway girl who would not talk to anybody... But Kelsey was able to connect through her work as an art therapist and psychologist. It worried, Kelsey, however, that much of the story she was told by the young girl, seemed to bring flashbacks of her own abduction years ago...

Although I enjoyed the story of suspense and drama within this book, and would highly recommend it, I was also concerned that the thrust of the romantic plot within this second book was very similar in method and procedure in this second book. I called it formula writing on my blog, if interested. Essentially, the meet-greet of male and female were totally mapped, even to the point of, while words were different, the thoughts, fears, and emotional responses of each were alike in both books... I found that I paused each time, recognizing what was going to come, and was never wrong... To have this happen within a unique suspense and delightfully creative story was disruptive to me, enough to make a note of it, hoping it doesn't occur in the next book.

Do check it out... read other reviews or decide that my concern won't bother you... The suspense story itself is fantastic...


Zia Westfield creates suspenseful, exciting stories with romance at the heart of them. There is nothing more thrilling than watching two people fall in love despite the odds and the danger surrounding their every move.

She makes her home in Tokyo with her husband and three sons. She holds a full-time job, volunteers too much because she doesn't know how to say "no," and generally finds peace between the pages of a book or when she's writing out the stories in her head.

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