In Tate’s debut romantic thriller, the way out for a woman being obsessively pursued by dangerous men may lie in uncovering her mother’s mysterious past.
Now that Drulietta Van Hamilton has inherited her late father’s vast estate, she’s getting noticed by a number of men. That’s not a problem when the attention’s coming from Chad, a doctor just hired at the nearby hospital who falls for the young woman. But most of the men are either aggressive or outright menaces: Her cousin, Justin, believes he’s entitled to the estate, where he also resides; Chad’s father, Beckley, chases Dru when she refuses his advances; and marijuana traffickers kidnap her for ransom. Dru realizes that they’re enchanted by her since she’s the spitting image of her mother, Caroline, who died after giving birth to Dru and her now-dead twin sister, Drucilla. Dru delves into Caroline’s history to reveal why the infatuated men refer to both mother and daughter by a word she’s unfamiliar with—“Willoweens”—and why Dru’s son, Delamar, is in the same amount of jeopardy as his mom. Tate spins a wickedly fun web in establishing her plot, with gleefully intricate links among the characters; upon hearing that his mother knew Caroline, an already-smitten Chad hilariously expresses a fear that he and Dru are related. There are indelible and often spooky settings, including Dru’s estate, which is so huge that she’s unaware of men growing marijuana on her property. Instant romance arrives too, when Chad, who has only just declared his love for Dru, asks her uncle Mercurio about “making her pregnant.” The introduction of an enigmatic group called Friends in High Places adds intrigue—both its membership and its reasons for being invested in Dru are hazy—as does an apparent clairvoyance shared by Dru and Delamar; each knows when the other is in peril. The story suffers when it hits a lull in the book’s second act, almost as if it’s hovering over the same plot devices: multiple trips to the hospital due to threats or attacks; more than one kidnapping; and interminable discussions about Chad and Dru’s potential marriage and its inexorable consummation. But the third act puts the story back on track with suspense and plenty of chances for Dru to display her self-defense training, though her signature move seems to be kneeing men in “the delicate anatomy.”
A spirited, diverting thriller that’s marred only by some narrative repetition.