In the first installment of Bell’s thriller series, an antiquities appraiser and a wealthy womanizer try to escape the curse of an ancient necklace.
Twenty-eight-year-old Annalisse Drury wants to leave the launch of New York City’s Zavos Art gallery. The owner, Generosa “Gen” Zavos, is her favorite client, but today is the birthday of Samantha Freeman, Annalisse’s recently murdered best friend, so she’d rather not listen to partygoers’ gossip. Gen’s handsome son, Alec, tries to woo Annalisse, but she’s wary of his lothario reputation. Then she notices a gold bib necklace with “a neat row of horses hanging from the collar” on display—one that’s similar to a bracelet that Sam’s killer stole. Annalisse believes that the murderer will come after the necklace, too, which makes the gallery a possible target. Although Gen initially disregards her concern, Annalisse explains that the ancient Persian jewelry is cursed. Later that night, Harry Carradine, Annalisse’s boss, falls unconscious, and he’s revealed to have been poisoned. When Russian-speaking men break into Annalisse’s house, demanding the necklace and threatening to kill her and Alec, the pair flee with the jewelry to the Catskills and then to Greece. Before long, they’re face to face with their true enemy. Debut author Bell delivers a great, slow-building romance, gently examining her characters’ painful pasts: Annalisse blames herself for her parents’ deaths 15 years ago, and Alec was married to a woman who suffered a mental breakdown after a late-term miscarriage. However, it will be hard for readers to become invested in other elements; it’s sometimes unclear why the two main players are willing to put themselves (and their loved ones) in jeopardy for a necklace rather than involving police detectives early on. Annalisse says that “giving it to authorities may put us in more danger,” but it’s hard to believe that holding onto the necklace is worth all the violence and loss that befalls them. Also, the conflict would bear more weight if Bell included the evildoers’ motivations and points of view. Fortunately, it’s easy to let much of this slide and simply watch the romance unfold.
A romantic thriller that would have benefited from more characters’ perspectives.