Publisher: Forge Books
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
I had the sense of déjà vu as I read the first scene from Stripped Bare. While the locales are different, it reminded me very much of the opening chapter to J.A. Vance’s Desert Heat from the Joanna Brady series. A woman on a ranch receives a phone call that her lawman husband has been shot. Will she get there in time? Will he live? From there the novels proceed a little differently.
Kate Fox is the wife in this case. She runs the Frog Creek ranch for her husband, Ted Conner, the sheriff of Grand County, Nebraska. From the phone call to her from Roxie, Ted’s former sweetheart, Kate learns that her neighbor, Eldon, has been murdered. As facts reveal themselves, Kate also learns that the reason Ted was able to respond so quickly to the shooting is because he was in Roxie’s bed and had been having an affair with her for a long time. A fact that everyone except for her and her siblings seemed aware of, even her father knew.
Ted’s overwhelming mother, Dahlia, who has never liked Kate, implores her to stand by Ted. Kate’s best friend, Sarah, suggests that Kate weigh all of her options before doing anything she might regret. As such, Kate agrees to take Ted’s spot in a debate scheduled before the primary to elect the next sheriff of Grand County. At the debate, Kate says that she will do her best to help Ted find Eldon’s murderer.
Stripped Bare is a pretty good read and decent mystery. Some of the later plot twists couldn’t be foreseen because no hints were provided.
In places the writing was dense with meandering sentences that begged to be re-read and perhaps re-read again for clarity. I reached a point where I didn’t bother. Fortunately those passages didn’t occur often.
I felt apathetic about Kate because, it seemed to me, she was frequently pathetic. She permitted herself to be led around by Dahlia and Roxie. She waffled about Ted, but then she took advantage of her brother by blackmailing him to do her chores while she supported Ted. I just had a general feeling of dissatisfaction that she was even wavering about her husband. If a man cheats on you with a woman he was previously involved with for a very long time, you’re probably not the one he’s in love with. You are not the love of his life. (Another royal déjà vu anyone?) Also, her attitude about the cows she supposedly loves struck me as a bit callous (but then I am frequently called a “bleeding heart” so take that as you will).
Stripped Bare may become a good mystery series since the plot was well done, but Kate is going to have to become smarter and more kick-ass for me to follow.
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
From Amazon: Stripped Bare
rating: (3 butterflies and a ladybug out of five butterflies)