Where There's Smoke
by Sandra Brown
Book Review by Amy Coffin
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For such a small town, Eden Pass, Texas sure houses a lot of big names. First, there's the Tackett family, as in Tackett Oil. Jody Tackett, the matriarch, used to run the company until her health got the best of her. Now, she's just a bitter old woman who spews venom at those in her life. Shy, spinster Janellen Tackett now runs the company. She's practically afraid of her own shadow and spends her time at work or with her elderly mother.

Key Tackett is the living son in the family, though you wouldn't know it the way his mother treats him. Jody hasn't liked Key from the day he was born, and that suits him just fine. Key would rather spend his time drinking and bedding women anyway.

Clark Tackett III, Jody's pride and joy, is gone. He committed suicide a while back. He is best known and the senator who could have headed to the White House. He had it all until he was caught in bed with the wife of a diplomat. The scandal ruined his career and the reputation of his lover.

Meet Lara Mallory, a.k.a. the other woman. She's mysteriously set up a medical practice in Eden Pass, to the amazement of the entire town. Of all the places in the country, the very hometown of her lover she has made home. Only Lara knows why she hung her medical shingle in Eden Pass.

Though Jody Tackett is ill, she still has enough strength to badmouth Lara. She spreads rumors throughout town and seriously damages Lara's medical practice. Key, who is nothing like is mother, has is own low opinion of Lara. It seems the whole town wants her to leave.

Lara has none of it, though. She came here for a reason, and that reason is Key. You see, Lara's life abruptly changed years ago in a war-torn South American country. To achieve closure in her life, Lara needs to return illegally to that country, and she wants Key to fly her there. Unfortunately, Key wants nothing to do with her.

Where There's Smoke is a story of secrets. There are secrets between Lara and the deceased Clark. Jody has secrets. Janellen has secrets. Key has secrets. Even the town hussy, Darcy Winston has something to hide.

So you think Where There's Smoke would be an interesting book, right? Well, yes and no. The story starts out fine. There's the introduction of the characters and their histories. When Key first meets Lara, he hits on her. He has no idea that she is his brother's former mistress. When he later learns the truth from his mother, Key is furious.

There's lots of secrets and backstabbing just like you'd find on generally any movie run on the Lifetime television network. However, just as I got into "romance novel mode," the story abruptly changed. No longer are we in Eden Pass, but rather the fictitious South American country of Montesangre. (In case you don't know, that means "Mountain of Blood." Therefore, we, as readers, are supposed to be concerned about Lara and Key in this war-torn nation. Yawn.)

The switch from one continent to another is abrupt. All the story lines in Eden Pass are put on hold as Ms. Brown handles her two main characters in this made-up country. Without giving too much away, I'll say the story eventually returns to Eden Pass, as though nobody ever left. The author re-introduces us to the townsfolk and prepares to wrap-up the story.

However, Ms. Brown changes the pace once again. We go from simple romance novel, to story of international intrigue, to crazy suspense novel with an outrageous climax. As I said in the title, Where's There's Smoke suffers from an identity crisis. It's three different mini-novels that just happen to have the same characters.

I'm only going to recommend this book to one group of people. Those who like to get lost in romantic fantasy might enjoy the story and that's a big might. There's a lot of sexual energy, but not a lot of love and passion. The story did manage to hold my interest, even though it reminded me of a combination of Dallas and Days of Our Lives.

If someone hands you a free copy of this book, keep it and read it on a plane or whenever you need to kill time. Otherwise, pass on Where There's Smoke, because there's certainly very little fire.

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