Reviewed: August 22, 2010
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: N/A (Non-Series / Stand-Alone)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Length: 584 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Steven Thatcher has known tragedy and fear. His wife was killed in a car accident years ago, leaving him to raise three sons. Six months ago his youngest son Nicky was kidnapped from his bed by a madman intent on punishing Steven. His eldest son Brad has been acting out for the past month, and Steven, special agent for the state Bureau of Investigations, is in a wild race to find a serial killer hunting high school cheerleaders.
Jenna Marshall, Ph.D., is Brad's teacher, and upon his latest failing grade on a test for a class in which he'd previously done very well, Jenna can't keep from contacting his father any longer. After a horrible experience with another parent of a failing child, she wasn't enthusiastic about the possibility of another conflict. Steven Thatcher isn't like that other father, however. In fact, he's like no one she's ever met before. He's...Hagen Daz Rocky Road in a room full of store brand vanilla. And she really, really likes Rocky Road.
A sadistic killer stalks teenage girls and malicious mischief and threats of harm start to pile up against Jenna. Steven is captivated by her but wounded by a past that shook him to the core. He's no closer to identifying and stopping a monster and he keeps messing up the relationship he desperately wants to pursue with the first woman to make it past his shields since his wife's death. Tension and stress reach explosive levels and keeping Jenna safe starts taking priority, but his family is falling apart and his job is becoming more and more frantic. There's just so much one man can take before everything goes boom.
Karen Rose is a master storyteller and has a gift for wending endearing romance and taut suspense into a single solid read that provides ultimate entertainment. The strength in Have You Seen Her? lies in the complex, likable characters that Rose imbues with depth and personality. There are no cardboard cutouts here, but flawed, real people with their own perks and peccadilloes.
Strong willed and independent Jenna has a good heart and a lot of compassion for friends and students alike, but has a tendency to assume too much responsibility and fails to let those who love her take care of her...even when she needs it. Steven is utterly at a loss with one son who suddenly seems to hate him and another who hasn't recovered from his trauma. His aunt won't stop setting him up with blind dates and the very thing that makes him so good at his job - his dedication - is causing so many problems with his family he feels almost like he's hiding from them.
These two are surrounded by secondary and ancillary characters that could be neighbors and friends, they're so realistic, and Steven's boys are particularly endearing - especially Matt. They all round out and embellish a twisted, intricate plot of death and deception that is told with Rose's impeccable style and timing. The mystery was dual pronged and nicely layered, and while the perpetrator of the slaughter of innocent girls maybe isn't the hardest thing to figure out early on, the big picture is much less so and the story provided enough twists and turns and surprises to keep me invested throughout.
The romance was well done, and evolved with a natural tempo organic to the character development and plot. I was particularly fond of the scenes between Jenna and Nicky as Jenna starts to become familiar with Steven's sons. I was less convinced with Jenna's response to an issue that came up between her and Steven late in the book - it felt a bit too harsh given the nature of the issue and knowing Jenna's personality. The whole of it smacked a little like orchestrated melodrama, but even with that, my overall opinion of the romance is very positive.
I had a couple of technical issues with the narrative at the beginning of the book, which felt a little repetitive as the plot and characters were starting to be identified and introduced, and Jenna's friend Casey refers to her students' book analysis of Dostoevsky as themes and I've never heard that before in that context, so I wasn't totally sure what exactly Casey meant. It becomes a plot point, so I wish I'd had a clearer picture. Other than those few small points, which didn't detract much from the reading experience, I was thrilled with this book and think Rose has established herself as a force to be reckoned with in the romantic suspense genre. She blends both aspects together flawlessly and provides top notch entertainment while doing so. I can't wait to read more. I can only hope it's a lot more.
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