Forget everything you think you know about KJ’s writing. A thriller isn’t where she’s expected to go, especially not this thriller. Sweet and quirky it isn’t.
What was the book about?
If you’ve read Coming Home, Kick Back or Art of Magic, you’re already familiar with Felicity Davis and/or Tal Diamandis. Ignis is when they meet. Felicity loves her job at Rawson Girls Grammar School in Melbourne, she loves the students she’s responsible for, she enjoys her monthly evenings of witty conversation and delicious food followed by satisfying sex. All in all, she is very happy with her life as it is. Her past is firmly in the past, or so she thinks. Felicity wasn’t always this strong, in-charge, free woman. When strange events start occurring, some seemingly insignificant at first, others downright terrifying, Inspector Tal Diamantis, tall, dark and mysterious, enters the scene.
Romantic Thriller; Non-Binary Character
Boy, can KJ write. With her usual ease with words, the poetry, the rhythm, she tells, in the same universe as Coming Home or Art of Magic, a much grittier and darker story. With any other author, I’d probably feel there were too many words but KJ mostly makes it work.
With all these words, KJ sets from the very beginning an atmosphere of doubt, of uncertainty, of definite danger, the past seeping into the present. I know some readers don’t like flashbacks but the way KJ tells the story shouldn’t bother you if you’re one of them. The timeline is clear and there’s never any confusion as to when events take place.
I enjoyed the thriller arc the most, the tension rising, the clues Felicity doesn’t want to see, the sense of foreboding. The atmosphere is perfect, dry, dusty, eerie. Usually, when I read KJ’s books, my heart beats faster because of all the feelings and emotions her characters experience. In this case, it was this sensation of impending doom that made my breath catch and my heart speed up. I can’t blame Felicity for being in complete denial for the longest time about everything that’s happening. Who wants to believe the worst, especially when you’ve already been through it? While the climax wasn’t as earth-shattering as the build-up led me to hope it would be, the resolution is convincing.
As I mentioned above, Felicity and Tal are not new characters and they already had their own little space in the character library in my mind. I already felt like I knew them better than most secondary characters, which is a testament to KJ’s ability to endow her characters with depth and complexity even if they’re not at the heart of the story. I was looking forward to finding out more about Felicity and she didn’t disappoint.
Before they get to know her, most people think Felicity is an ice queen. In reality, she’s guarded and she has good reasons to be. In that respect as in many others, Tal and Felicity are very similar, as the latter comments on at one point. They’re both smart, extremely observant, kind and careful with their trust and their love.
Strangely enough, the romance didn’t completely work for me. It felt almost distracting from the mystery at times. I have no issue with the chemistry between the two main characters, it’s entirely believable (see below). Even so, for two very closed-off people, they share their deepest selves very quickly. I’m willing to believe, however, as I’ve written in previous reviews, that danger brings a sense of urgency and helps walls crumble, especially when you’ve found the right person with whom to let go.
Is it because I already knew who Tal and Felicity were going to be? Or because KJ writes her characters so well that you feel everything going on between them? Either way, the chemistry between both MCs is undeniable, despite Felicity’s initial attempts. What makes the “before” chapters so unsettling is also what makes the lusty tension between Felicity and Tal so much fun. If you’ve read Art of Magic, you remember Rica’s gift. KJ injects some of those vibes into each interaction she writes, to some extent. When it comes to characters falling in lust or in love, it becomes palpable.
🔥 🔥 🔥
How awesome is it to have the privilege of watching an author grow? KJ’s mastery of her words and storytelling improves with each new book. As an author, she keeps surprising me. At first sight, her stories may seem traditional. A romance is a romance, a thriller is a thriller. The devil, however, is in the details and KJ will add a dose of magical realism here, an unpredictable twist or an unconventional relationship there. She can write the sweetest romance (Coming Home will forever remain one of my favourites) then, in a not-so-unexpected way, take the reader for a ride on a gory rollercoaster. I can’t wait to see where she takes us next.