Midnight Secrets (by Ella Grace)

 Dog tags and camo pants - looks like military action stuff is going to happen, right?   Nope!

Midnight Secrets by Ella Grace

Conflict: Big secrets - Who murdered her folks when she was a kid?  What happened to him that made him leave for the Army with out saying goodbye to her? Why is this town so frickin' secretive and weird? etc.

Those are the ONLY questions that kept me reading this book.
If this wasn't a suspenseful small-town mystery (so if it was just about him being an Army vet and her returning to town to rekindle what they had...) I couldn't have finished it.
Let me break it down because this was a lot for 400 pages:

The first chapter opens right away to the murder of the Savannah's parents (superbly written!) and I'm immediately hooked.

The second chapter jumps to when the hero (Zach) is 18 and saves the heroine (Savannah) from being gang-raped/brutalized at her prom (more on this horrible bullshit later).  She's the richest girl in town and he's from the "wrong side of the tracks". They're both gorgeous, etc. They don't talk about their childhood troubles too much. They fall in love... it's that cute kind of lovesick puppy-love that happens when you grow up in a super small town like Midnight, Alabama - and everyone talks about it and comments about "how in love you are" because they want to be all up in your BID-NAZZ. He's going to enlist in the Army and they're going to get engaged - HOORAY! [and that's not even the first quarter of the book...]

Then it jumps to present day; Savannah is a ball-breaking prosecutor in Atlanta, and Zach is the sheriff of Midnight. Oh, and remember the rapist douchebag from the prom? He's the town's deputy... 
so he's paid to "keep the town safe"...

After a whole bunch of sketchy stuff, and some romantic flirting with passionate gropes - We find out that Zach left for the Army (without saying goodbye to Savannah) because [Spoilerish stuff: He got almost beaten to death up by the town scum-bag - who's actually his biological-father... so I guess he went through some crazy trauma and freaked out and just left.] Then after a whole ton of plot twists, and some sex, and more stranger-danger, and drama, and not trusting anyone in the story - I basically had to finish this to find out who killed Savannah's parents back in that amazing first chapter - and I had a mental list of three characters who could have been the killer - but it totally wasn't who I expected!

Why do I empathize with this heroine?  Of all the shitty childhoods we come across in romances - hers is pretty shitty - I mean, not the shittiest - but still... she manages to turn things around and completely focus on her career, and that's great - but when it comes to actually being in danger - she doesn't really take care of herself. Por ejemplo: when your prom date is totally drunk and starts groping on you and pressuring you for sex - in the middle of your school gym - how about you tell a teacher? But, oh wait, that would make you unpopular, right? And you're having so much trouble in that area - despite being the richest/prettiest girl in school with two older popular sisters, just because your parents were murdered, right?  Well, ok... teenage years suck, so I can understand, but then...  Ejemplo numero dos: If you're TOTALLY IN DANGER - and there are many signs to prove this to you - why would you ever spend any time alone? Seriously, CHAIN YO' SELF to that studly guy on the cover who will do anything to protect you.  Or at least get a few German Shepherds, or a gun, or a tricked-out home security system, or whatever - just don't sit at home like, "I guess I'll pack up these old albums and sell this tragic house woe is me".  No, don't do that.

Overall: I think this was more than "ok", but the actual romance takes a back seat in this one. Any feeling of "we used to date - let's hook up again because this is unfinished" is trivial when the characters have, not just one, but SO MANY stranger-danger situations going on in the plot.  Which brings me to another thought...  Why move back? Ever. Seriously. If you grew up in a town where everyone knows when you take a shit, and they really have nothing better to do - then you move away to Atlanta, or you join the military and travel around quite a bit - don't move back to that bum-fuck town.  It's stories like this that make me never trust anyone.  I can only recommend this for the romance reader who likes it heavy on the mystery and suspense.

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