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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ring of Lies by Victoria Howard

Ring of Lies by Victoria Howard
Publisher: Vanilla Heart Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (160 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Poinsettia

When accountant Daniel Elliott dies in a car accident, his widow, Grace, is overcome with grief…and panic. Daniel was controlling and their marriage loveless, but he always took care of her.

Or so she thought.

Grace soon discovers Daniel kept secrets: an alias, mob ties, a list of numbers, a mysterious beach house in Florida….and a girlfriend who looks like Grace. Swallowing her fear, she flies to Miami to claim the house Daniel left her. But the price of her curiosity is peril. Underworld figures stalk her. And handsome, troubled FBI agent Jack West has crossed precarious paths with Grace before. With little to go on and danger at every turn, Grace must depend on Jack to help her navigate the criminal world of south Florida, and find the truth behind the Ring of Lies.

Betrayed by the one man she should have been able to trust…

My heart ached for Grace from the moment I started reading. Her world collapsed when her husband died, but she had no idea how much worse things were about to get. A stranger at Daniel's funeral threatens Grace and implies that Daniel was involved in some illegal activities. At first Grace refuses to believe the man she’s been married to for ten years could have kept so much from her, but it isn’t long before she is forced to face the truth.

Grace was a very likable character. In the beginning she is simply a long suffering housewife who was married to an emotionally and mentally abusive husband. However, I was very pleased that Grace didn’t stay that way for the entire length of the story. She didn’t change overnight. Ms. Howard gradually drew Grace out of her shell as the story progressed. This made Grace’s character development feel very natural. I enjoyed watching Grace assert her independence as it began to slowly sink in that she was free of Daniel’s influence. I was also pleased that she developed a back bone and a good dose of courage, which she certainly needed as she dug deeper into the truth of her dead husband’s activities. However, she was stubbornly na├»ve throughout a good portion of the story. As I read, I had a large part of the mystery figured out, but Grace simply refused to see the truth. There were times when I wanted to reach through the pages and smack some sense into her. I’ll admit I was a little worried that Grace would wilt when the final pieces of the puzzle slid into place. However, I was pleased to discover Grace was truly a stronger woman by the end of the story.

Jack West is the perfect hero for Grace. He’s a tough FBI agent dedicated to his job, but that is just one of the layers to his interesting character. He’s also the father of Emilia, a very young infant. Jack isn’t perfect. He has a very flawed relationship with Emilia’s mother that makes Jack a more believable character. While his relationship with Emilia’s mother is strained at best, it is clear that he cares for Emilia more than anything in the world. The scenes where Jack takes care of Emilia really showcase the softer side of his personality and really made him come alive in my mind.

Jack and Grace have chemistry to burn, but their timing always seems to be off. When they first met, Grace was still married. Now that Daniel is gone, Grace learns that Jack is a father. Ms. Howard did an excellent job of balancing these everyday problems against the more extraordinary situations Grace and Jack faced as they dug into Daniel’s past. It really helped ground the story and made Grace and Jack’s relationship feel more realistic.

Ring of Lies was definitely an enjoyable read. Not only did the suspense keep me turning pages, but the romance between Grace and Jack was compelling. Fans of romantic suspense will certainly want to check it out.