|New author A.J. Brower offers readers a thoughtful romantic suspense in A Family to Die For.† High school chemistry teacher and baseball coach Mike Garretson has inherited a family mansion, River Bluffs, in East St. Louis.† Mike is part of the Houseman family of Houseman Pharmaceuticals.† The house, bequeathed to Mike by his great-uncle, comes with a caveat.† Mike has one year to prove that his great-grandmother, Caroline Garretson, was murdered and that Fred Houseman, a former president of the company, was an imposter.† If Mike canít come up with the proof, he loses the house.
Mike has no idea where to turn, and heís wasted eleven months spinning his wheels.† Finally, he decides to hire Jennie Foster, a fellow teacher and professional historical researcher. They mystery intrigues Jennie, as does River Bluffs.† And Mike Garretson is quite attractive, too.† Itís a lot for a rather shy historian to absorb, but soon Jennie and Mike are deep into his family history and finding more than they bargained for.
A Family to Die For is well-written, and the standout of the story is Jennie.† Her character is delightful and down-to-earth; this is someone readers will easily identify with.† Her bemusement when Mike seems interested in her is charming, and Iím betting that many readers will relate to her feelings.††
Mike is more problematic, and frankly, I couldnít see what Jennie found so attractive in him other than his looks.† He comes across as insecure and self-absorbed, a guy who wants everyoneís attention and approval.† Much is made of his car, a 1965 Shelby Mustang, and Mike himself admits that ĒHe wasnít ready for another relationship.† Maybe a brief fling, but Jennie didnít strike him as the one-night-stand type. And if he were looking, heíd want sophistication, someone who would really make other people take a second look.Ē.† He wants a hot car and a hot babe so everyone will look at him?† I just couldnít warm up to the guy.† He seemed more caricature than character.† Jennieís quirks make her interesting; Mikeís lack of them make him bland.
The plot is complex, perhaps too complex.† There are a lot of Housemans on the family tree, and itís difficult to keep them all straight.† Add in some Garretsons, Mikeís arm-candy ex-wife, and a few people who work at Houseman Pharmaceuticals (rather distractingly referred to as HP throughout the book - I kept thinking of printers) and one needs a scorecard to keep track.† The villain is kept hidden, though Ė I didnít see the ending coming, and itís suitably suspenseful.† Kudos to the author on that.
A.J. Brower shows that she has talent for creating interesting, complex plots and equally interesting heroines.† It will be fun to see how her voice develops, and Iíll be watching for her next release.†