TBR Day. Spring Break / Kayla Perrin. 2010.
This is a book I bought last spring at the RT booksigning. Pretty cover, no? Anyhow, I've been meaning to read it for ages now and this was the perfect book for this month's theme of "New To Me" author. Kayla Perrin has written several dozen books in a wide variety of genres-- category romance, mainstream fiction, mass market romance, children's fiction, and romantic suspense. I had a very nice chat with Ms. Perrin at the booksigning. Currently she has some recent releases in Harlequin's Kimani line as well as some other RS titles published in trade-sized like this one.
Spring Break is a romantic suspense novel told in the first person by Chantelle, the heroine, who is one of three college friends traveling together to a Caribbean island for (you guessed it!) Spring Break and meet up with Trouble. Chantelle, Erica, and Ashley are close friends and all three are aspiring authors. They've signed up for a week-long package deal on the fictional island of Artula. The package includes all of the sun, surf, sex, food, and alcohol they can soak up. When Ashley disappears, Chantelle tries not to worry because hook-ups are the name of the game. Finally, though, Chantelle realizes something is wrong and her quest to find Ashley leads her to Jason, another American who happens to be on the island to investigate the disappearances of other women. Ashley, who is the white blond on the cover, could very well have been the victim of human trafficking. Jason shows Chantelle his files about women who look like Ashley and have been missing. As Jason, Chantelle, and Erica attempt to re-trace Ashley's steps they begin to fear the worst as they run into corrupt police and murder.
There's a lot going on in this book and while Perrin weaves all of the themes together very well, it began to be too much. There's the friendship between the 3 women that underlies everything. There are also personal issues that each of them is dealing with as they go to Artula to try and escape their problems. There are troubling family dynamics (some of which show up when Ashley's parents arrive in Artula). There is, of course, the mystery of Ashley's disappearance. In the course of searching for Ashley, Chantelle learns things about her friend that she never suspected. And finally there is Chantelle's budding relationship with Jason. With so much going on this is a page-turner that kept me reading. But it also meant that certain aspects lacked depth. Since I primarily read for the romance, the fact that the romantic relationship in the book had to compete with all of the other stuff going on made the book less satisfying on an emotional level.
I have to say that I read this feeling every one of my 53 years. The hedonism surrounding spring breaks is certainly something that makes the news when a tragedy occurs, but at the risk of sounding like an old prude, some of the behaviors of college students on break made me cringe. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! See? I'm 53. Anyhow, it was still fascinating. In the long run this was a fast, enjoyable read that simply lacked the emotional pay-off I would have preferred. I certainly liked it well enough that I'll try some of Perrin's straight romances soon.