Forsaken - Laydin  Michaels Blake, a schoolteacher, suffers from social anxiety disorder. While on vacation in Galveston, her best friend drags her to a local bar for some much needed socializing. With a bit of help from Xanax, she manages to lose herself in a sexy dance, and snag a beautiful partner at the same time, policewoman Lindsay. The instant attraction surprises them both--Blake because of her lifelong disability and Lindsay because she's only ever cared for her career. But before anything else happens, tragedy strikes and threatens to scuttle everything even before anything serious happens.

The first thing that attracted me to this book was the cover. It sort of suggests a profound and emotional drama. But it doesn't really fit the book, which is mostly a police procedural involving a murder/kidnapping case. There is a child involved (hence the cover, I suppose) but she isn't really the focus of the book. The romance is of the love-at-first-kiss variety, though things do pick up towards the end. There isn't much of a mystery as things are pretty obvious from the start. The antagonist's pov figures prominently in the book. While it might have provided insight, I could use with less of the nauseating and all too long quotations. Not enough time was spent on the kid though. Despite being featured prominently on the cover, she had too little to do and to say. I don't normally like child characters as leads, but she had a lot of potential. Sympathetic, common-sensical, and very practical, I loved her characterization. That was the biggest wasted opportunity, imho, to present such an intriguing character, and then not give her a more active role in the plot.

And speaking of plot, here is my usual litany of nitpicks and observations. Major ending spoilers ahead so don't click if you are reading the book. ;)

Blake's injuries, especially the broken ribs and arm in a sling, seemed to be too serious not to need confinement. She might even have some concussion, as her head was repeatedly smashed on the ground. And before that, she had just gotten out of a major car accident. At the very least, she wouldn't have been physically able to jet around the place. How does she even put on/take off clothes? :) I also can't imagine how much pain she must go through sobbing and doing breathing exercises with broken ribs, but I never read about it.

So many bodies strewn along I-45 and no one seriously investigates or makes a connection. It is explained in the book as lack of coordination and length of time between bodies, though I find it not very believable. These bodies aren't gang related killings. They're women's bodies posed in a particular way. It screams serial killer in big flashy neon. But no one makes a connection until Lindsay digs it up.

The plot developments are a little unusual for a thriller. This isn't a nitpick but more of an observation. Most authors would understably put the protagonists front and center in the resolution of the conflict. The author chose to be more realistic. Only one of the leads is involved in the capture of the villain and only in a supporting role. That, of course, is at it should be in real life. But a thriller-junkie will say 'where's the fun in that'? Same issue with Blake's escape from the killer. Realistic, yes, but too easy. I'm not saying that these choices are wrong, just that they take away the thrill factor from the book.

And who can forget about Levi. She had to go get sick and miss all the action. Now this plot development is completely realistic and yet so absolutely deflating. Villian practically turns himself in as a result. No chase. No excitement. No fight. There goes my big bang ending. :(

The villain's motive for repeated killing is rather murkily explained. He supposedly sees a 'red light' on certain women, of which neither Blake nor her best friend had it on them. We never really get the whys and wherefores of that except that he had ptsd from the war and he'd gone nuts. Was it something else about the women? Or what they wore? We never know.

Hmmm..this isn't even a nitpick, lol, but what the heck: the no-nonsense ranger character is seriously hot! But of course, Lindsay is taken. Maybe in another book? :)

For the casual lesfic reader looking for a good mix of romance and cop action, this is a good choice. I liked how the author depicted Blake's rather extreme social anxiety disorder and her courageous attempts to overcome it, or at least manage it. I enjoyed the realistic police procedural and investigation. The romance was okay. But the armchair adrenalin-junkie in me missed the thrills.

Overall, a good first effort.

ARC received from Netgalley