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Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Penny For Your Thoughts by Bess McBride

A Penny For Your Thoughts by Bess McBride
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (260 pages)
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 Books
Reviewed by Ivy

Michigan mental health therapist Penny Brown runs to the sugary sands of the Alabama Gulf Coast in search of solace following the devastating suicide of one of her clients. But the healing and peace she seeks elude her as a stalker begins to make threatening phone calls from Michigan. She turns to the local authorities only to discover that the Chief of Police is none other than Matt Williams, the man she loved and left fifteen years before...a man she never stopped loving.

Of all the joints she had to walk into...

Matt is ready to fall in love all over again if Penny is finally ready to settle down. But neither of them realize that a killer is much closer than they think. Rekindling their love could cost Penny her life.

If you’ve never spent time on the Gulf Coast, I’m sorry for you. After reading Bess McBride’s A Penny For Your Thoughts, I feel sorry for myself -- because I’m ready to head back! A frequent admirer of Ms. McBride’s themes, I couldn’t wait to snatch up this new release set off of Alabama’s beaches. I was more than pleasantly surprised by this romantic suspense novel. A Penny For Your Thoughts is a clever piece of work.

The story opens with a literal bang. Initially I feared the story might overdose on melodrama, but I was quickly brought about by the vulnerable heroine, Penny Brown, who must deal with the guilt of losing a patient she has counseled. As Penny heads from Michigan to Alabama’s Gulf Coast for time off to deal with her grief, she crosses paths with the one former sweetheart that she has never gotten over. Now the Chief of Police, sweet and sultry Matt Williams, must help her find out who is stalking her from home and make amends for the mistakes in their past relationship.

Penny is the insecure woman in love that we have all once been, or will be. Her inner strength is quiet, and though she can’t seem to see it in herself, we, along with her dashing Police Chief, do. Penny is very human: She makes dumb decisions, blames herself for things that aren’t her fault, and has misgivings about her own inner and out beauty. She is a character anyone can relate to. When she begins to receive threatening phone calls from a stalker out for revenge, her fear is realistic and her reactions believable. The hesitation she has in reaching out to the man she wants so badly to love, is achingly familiar to anyone who has dreamed of a second chance with a lost love.

Left by Penny years before, Max is the local Police Chief, who can’t seem to believe his luck that she’s in his life again. He is a forgiving, humble man who appears to have learned his lesson about not being more expressive about his feelings. He fits so naturally into his occupation that it doesn’t feel the least bit contrived. There were moments I wanted to reach into the pages and smack him upside the head, but his actions and reasonings are those of a man of honor. We females don’t always understand men like that. They’re so few and far between!

The pacing is so fantastic in this suspense novel that the hiccups along the way come off as minor--several occasions where events unraveled too conveniently were a bit distracting for me. That being said, the psychological storyline and work in this story, even to the point of tying the title in so cleverly (I love a good double entendre!), is near flawless to read. Three cheers for an author who can write a whodunit and throw in so many red herrings you feel like you’re swimming in a school of them. I couldn’t make my up mind who was out to get poor Penny, and when it was revealed I was mad at myself for not figuring it out!

I also loved every moment the story took me to the beach. I could just feel the sugary sand beneath my feet, see the one-legged little sandpiper, and who doesn’t want to watch the sun slip below the horizon in a fiery ball just one more time? Every scene, from the tranquil to the climatic, is vivid in sensory detail and draws you in.

There is a wonderful growth in Ms. McBride’s books as she continues to publish her original romances. Besides adventuresome plotlines, she writes with taste, and deserves a nod for classy romance stories that don’t lack in power or sensuality. A Penny For Your Thoughts is the best romantic suspense I have read of late. A lover of any romance subgenre will not go wrong with this story. It is super enjoyable.