A few years ago, when I worked in a corporate office some co-workers in the cubes around me discovered Overdrive and were listening to the Nantucket Brides series by Jude Deveraux.
As one of my co-workers was telling me about the plot of the book I was like “Yeah, Jude Deveraux has a ton of romance novels”. There was a bit of awkward silence and I was then hastily corrected by them that it wasn’t a romance…it was a mystery/thriller. *sigh*
Ever since then I’ve always been curious what it was about Devereaux’s contemporary books that pulled in people who didn’t consider themselves big readers. So I finally sat down and listened to one on audio. I chose Scarlet Nights on Scribd because thee undercover element stuck out to me as I was skimming synopsis.
Michael Newland is a hardened undercover South Florida cop whose has been tasked by the Feds to find out what criminal Stephan aka Greg Anders and his con artist mother are doing in the small town of Edilean, Virginia and what devious plans they have for Sara Shaw, the small-town sweetheart Stephan wooed into becoming his fiancee. The small town of Edilean is Sara’s world and Mike will protect it and her even if the town holds some of his darkest family secrets.
This book is what I expect from a legendary romance writer from the ’90s, it’s one of those super heteronormative books; the men are strong, smart and powerful while the women are beautiful, empathetic and witty. This book is smack dab in the middle of the series so Deveraux has built a strong community of characters and to populate the small town of Edilean.
The book has a pleasant flow, the constant threat of danger and hints of the mystery kept me reading. Mike comes to town with an undercover story and I liked how Sara was genre-savvy enough to poke holes in his story and help him solve the case early on. Because the entire town hates the villain Stephan aka Greg Anders, they help push Mike and Sara into a relationship while she is still engaged. IDK if this counts as cheating? I know some people aren’t fans of that in their books. There is also a dash of “not like other girls” because Sara is family-oriented and dresses in old fashioned fabrics, plus she’s not one of those high-falutin’ city career ladies.
This book also has a side of crazy sauce and gets a little head scratchy. For one. the title of this book is so random. Scarlet Nights is the name of a sex perfume the heroine’s mom (who is also the town mayor) makes whenever she and the heroine’s dad are together? I mean it had nothing to do with the plot, so when the name drop came I wasn’t expecting it.
And finally, there is this really odd part where Sara and her high school nemesis (one of those high-falutin’ city career girls) rush to help the hero who has been kidnapped. To distract the bad guys the women decide to take off their clothes, let the bad guys see them in their underwear and then give chase? WHAT? WHY ????? It’s so …silly and it of course works but they could have done that with their clothes on ??? The men chasing women in lingerie felt like an outdated rape joke.
Even though this book was published in 2010 it does not 100% hold up. A lot of the mystery revolves around an old great house which–let’s face it–was a plantation. Additionally, antique tarot cards play a big part in luring the bad guys out and the characters dive deep into Romani stereotypes.
Also, a slight spoiler for part of Mike backstory; it’s revealed that his mean Grandma got drunk one night as a young adult, fell off her bike and had (what everyone says she essentially asked for) sex with a man she thought was her crush but was actually the town perv. Anyway, this is not fully explored and we never learn what really happened. It felt very uncomfortable because we never learned if what really happened that night was consensual, and I just didn’t understand why it was added,
The small town of Edilean and its history did catch my interest, so I certainly want to check out the books in this series that go back to the town’s origins and tell how it was settled by Highlanders in the 1600s.
Stephan aka Greg’s mother is the villain that sets the book’s events in motion, she is known for swindling women out of money by emotionally manipulating them as a fake psychic. Unfortunately, something similar happened to Jude Deveraux and it looks like this book was a response to that.
Jude Deveraux is apart of Sara Wendell calls the ‘Holy Trinity of J” Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsay, and Jude Deveraux. I still need a Johanna Lindsay so hopefully, I will get to that in 2020.