A Texas Ranger’s newly discovered romance may be threatened by a serial killer who buries women alive in Stoker’s (Protecting Jessyka, 2015, etc.) thriller, the first in a series.
Daxton Chambers may have found a woman tailor-made for him. Mackenzie Morgan wins the Ranger over not just with her curves, but her quirks—a tendency toward rambling and unmitigated clumsiness. Mackenzie also distracts Daxton from the case he’s working with the feds: finding the Lone Star Reaper, who’s been calling authorities to tell them where he’s buried his latest victims. The Reaper soon focuses his attention on Daxton and his new girlfriend. And the worst happens: Mackenzie calls him to say she’s somewhere underground—and doesn’t have long before she suffocates. The novel establishes its romance early and well. Mackenzie is a winsome protagonist who defies formula: she’s short, practical, and isn’t model-thin. It’s easy to see why Daxton find her so appealing, especially when she laughs after spilling a drink or food on herself. Daxton is, a little disappointingly, more stereotypical: muscular, masculine, protective, and sporting what Mackenzie calls a “fourteen-pack.” Their relationship builds naturally as they push past the initially awkward getting-to-know-you stage and inevitable sex scenes before dropping an “I love you” or two—all without ever being sappy. There’s not much thriller here. Daxton’s case steers clear of the foreground until Mackenzie is suddenly missing—her call to Daxton amping up the narrative’s intensity. Stoker ultimately reveals the Lone Star Reaper, but the killer’s identity and brief appearance are neither shocking nor particularly scary. But Daxton’s desperation to find Mackenzie is rousing and believable, and readers will have a white-knuckle read until the end.More romance than thriller but enough of both to make this breezy read pure entertainment.