I try to scream from the panic exploding within me, but sound isn't coming out at all any more. I'm placed down on a stretcher as firemen run past me and into the house. They shouldn't go in there.
I shouldn't have been in there.
I should have known...
As my life changes in a split second, questions appear everywhere, falling for a stranger I meet in a dark park is now my only crutch, and lies I didn't know existed culminate into unfortunate truths.
At twenty-five, I thought I had everything figured out, but I couldn't have been more wrong.
In Shari J. Ryan's latest Romantic Suspense, Red Nights, you wonder how dark your world can get before all you see is red.
This book was fantastic - I didn’t figure out who the bad guy was until the author smacked me in the face with it! Also, I have to compliment the beautiful cover. We’ve all been told not to judge books by them, but hey, they can’t hurt.
This book starts off with a bang - or maybe a whoosh would be more appropriate - it starts with a fire. Felicity is fighting for air and her life from the first page. She wakes up in the middle of the night to find out that her house is on fire. She is rescued, but is distraught when she learns that her twin brother Blake was also inside. She didn’t know he was home, as he was supposed to have been out of town. Blake is burned badly and does not live. Felicity does her best impersonation of a zombie, barely making it through the funeral. She feels extremely guilty, like she should have somehow known that Blake was home. As it was, she came home late from her job as a chef, fixed something to eat, smoked her nightly secret cigarette on the back porch and went to bed, completely wiped out.
She stresses herself out about that cigarette, trying to remember exactly what she did with it when she put it out. She moves in temporarily with Aspen, her friend and co-worker. One night while depressed and unable to sleep, she sneaks out to have a toke in the little park down the street. She’s laying on the grass, contemplating the sky, when she meets Hayes Peyton, who is out walking his dog Lady. Luckily, Hayes isn’t a killer, and tells her, hey, you know, you really shouldn’t be out here in the dark in the middle of the night ya know, it’s not a good idea…. you know, like a smart person would. They hit it off - the chemistry between them is immediate, despite Felicity’s mental state. They meet several more times like this, and eventually start “dating”. I put it in quotes because while it was obvious they were attracted to each other, the real star in the beginning of this book was Felicity’s crippling guilt.
The cops call her in to question her about what she did that night. When they found out she had a smoke on the back porch they act like AHA, that must be it, you dirty smoker you. She was already feeling guilty about it, and the way they reacted only confirmed it in her mind that the fire was all her fault. Right about then I was like, dude, really? There is NO WAY that a modern cigarette can burn down a house. They barely stay lit on their own! I could see it if she was smoking, say, in bed, but she was on the back porch, and by her account, tossed it in the same place she always did - a tin can filled with sand. The most it should have done was maybe set the rest of the butts in the can on fire; which would have smelled like death, but sure wouldn’t have caused a fire of that magnitude. It looks even worse for her when the cops tell her that it looked like the fire originated from her back porch.
Felicity is portrayed as a loner, and a very driven chef. She’s not the social butterfly party girl type. Aspen and Tanner (Blake’s best friend, and Felicity’s former boyfriend) are doing their best to look after Felicity, although she feels smothered by their constant hovering. She tries throwing herself back into her work at the restaurant, but on her first day back her boss tells her that she has to fire Aspen. This was apparently in the works before the fire; and was a direct result of something Aspen had done. When the reason comes out it open a whole other can of worms. Tanner acts as though he wants to get back together with Felicity, but his sniffing around only makes her nervous that he will endanger her growing relationship with Hayes, who is revealed to be a former cop, and now a private investigator. Jealous, Tanner does everything he can to plant doubt in Felicity’s head about Hayes.
I liked Hayes a lot - he’s very smooth, and has a warped sense of humor that jives just right with Felicity’s. He also has connections in the police, and soon turns his efforts towards figuring out just what happened in the fire. Felicity is strung so tightly that she nearly sabotages their relationship, but in all of this madness, even though it seems wrong to her to feel happiness, Hayes is the only thing in the world that seems to be right. She said more than once that Hayes made her forget - forget her pain, her fear, and sometimes her own name. He’s got his own secrets though, his own pain he is running from. He’s just as broken as she is, he’s just been doing it longer.
Felicity’s mental state is on a pretty obvious downward spiral. She’s paranoid and torturing herself with the fire, still convinced that she caused it all. But Hayes has other ideas, and after he starts becoming active in her case things really start moving and shaking. I did not see the bad guy coming in this book and the reveal came with a bang as well. Shari kept the killer so well camouflaged. The by-word of this book seems to be “Trust no one”, because people that Felicity thought she knew - thought she knew VERY well-, turned out to all have secrets, some deadly.
You can bet that I will be looking for more by this author. Her next book Ravel, is due out soon. In the meantime Shari is publishing a serial story every week on her blog (http://www.sharijryan.com/) called Sin of the Shed. It's dark and twisted and delicious, and I am in love with it all ready.
About the Author:
Shari J. Ryan is an Amazon Top 100 Bestselling author, a Barnes & Noble Top 10 Bestselling author, and an iBookstore #1 Bestselling author.
She hails from Central Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and two lively little boys. Shari has always had an active imagination and enjoys losing herself in the fictional worlds she creates. When Shari isn’t writing, she can usually be found cleaning toys up off the floor.
To learn more, visit her at, www.sharijryan.com.