Series: Taylor Jackson, Book 7
Rating: 3 Stars
Length: 400 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Mira publisher Harlequin via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Not A Good Place to Start
Taylor Jackson hasn't been doing well since the serial killer known as the Pretender almost killed her. She's ever-so-slowly recovering physically, but she's mute, her nightmares are monstrous, and she's popping pills like they're Tic Tacs. On top of that, her friendship with her best friend Sam has been strained since the Pretender kidnapped and tortured the medical examiner, and she's still feeling betrayed by her fiancé, Baldwin. All she wants is to get back to the job, but riding a desk isn't her style and until she can find her voice again, that's all she's good for, even if the doctors would let her come back.
When Scotland Yard cop and friend Memphis Highsmythe offers her the use of his castle in the Scottish Highlands, Taylor is leery. She knows Memphis has feelings for her, so does Baldwin, and she can't see him being okay with her gallivanting across the pond and practically into his arms. Not that there would be any of that. Things may not be totally good with Baldwin, but she loves him. Still, Taylor needs this change of scenery desperately, so she finally accepts.
The castle and grounds are something out of a fairy tale, so beautiful that it takes Taylor's breath away, and Memphis is solicitous to the extreme. It isn't until Memphis returns to London on a new case and Taylor has a few days to herself that she starts to feel something isn't right at the castle. While the place is reported to be haunted, Taylor has never been a believer in ghosts. Still, she can't deny that she's seeing things...feeling things...and all her hard-fought progress feels like it's slipping through her fingers.
With her actions threatening everything she holds dear and her mind spinning more and more out of her control, Taylor struggles to grasp onto what is real. Problem with that plan, though, is simple. What's real may just be trying to kill her.
I'm a first-time reader of Ellison and I definitely picked the wrong place to start. That makes reviewing the book particularly difficult, because I can only speak to my own experiences and they're not going to be remotely similar to anyone who has been following the series or who has, at least, read however many books there are that covered the serial killer known as the Pretender.
I can say that I found Ellison's writing style pleasant and easy to read. Her narrative was smooth, the characters were well-rounded and realistically flawed, and the moments of suspense and tension were highly effective. I was, however, completely disconnected from the story and the characters for the first sixty percent of the book. I had no clear idea what was going on, no firm grasp on the intended plot of the book, and no true understanding of the events that brought Taylor to the place she was both physically and emotionally.
Because so much of the content of this book was directly related to the Pretender - both surviving him and the characters getting their lives back on track after the devastation he wrought, a huge hunk of the book read more like a very extensive epilogue than a self-contained story. I didn't really get why Taylor was so unhappy with Baldwin, what he did to betray her, and I thought she was insane - and a little self-centered - to go to Scotland to be with a man who thinks he's in love with her. Sam's continuing issues with Taylor were understandable - to a point - but I couldn't really sympathize completely because I just don't have a clear grasp on exactly what went down and how it all played out...again, with the Pretender.
There really is a whole Pretender theme going on in the book, for sure.
The last thirty to forty percent of the book was far more appealing to me, because the focus switched to what was happening to Taylor in the moment, instead of in the past. That and the obvious quality of the writing and just as obviously flawed heroine were why I didn't dislike the book. There was just enough original story content, and I like flawed heroines just enough, that I found myself at least interested in events as they unfolded and the danger to Taylor increased.
For a first-time Ellison reader like myself, this book just doesn't work well. I'm fairly sure I would've loved to read the book or books that featured the Pretender, because from what I gleaned, that was more the type of suspenseful thriller that I enjoy, but I haven't, and it seriously impacted my appreciation of this book. I strongly recommend readers new to the series not use this book as the starting point to jump into it.