In P.J. Parrish’s captivating She’s Not There, a young woman wrestles not only with her identity — in this case exacerbated by temporary amnesia — but also tries to find the essence of who she is.
Amelia wakes up in Broward General Hospital in Fort Lauderdale with no idea how she became battered and bruised. A stranger apparently found her by the side of the road and brought her to the hospital, her purse and keys missing. Slowly, her name comes back, and the police track down her husband, Alex.
But Alex’s visit at the hospital leaves Amelia with an uneasy feeling so she flees. She is afraid of Alex, yet shes’ not sure why. The worried Alex hires Clay Buchanan, a skip tracer who commands a high fee, who says that if Amelia has reason to be afraid, he will not reveal her whereabouts. Clay’s investigation takes him across the country and back to Fort Lauderdale, and as Amelia slowly regains her memory, she can only rely on her instincts, which may be flawed.
Parrish, the pseudonym of sisters Kelly Nichols of Michigan and Kristy Montee of Fort Lauderdale, delivers a tension-filled plot rich in characterizations (the story is also full of Broward County landmarks, such as the restaurant YOLO and the bar Kim’s Alley). Twists and turns keep the reader off-kilter. Bits and pieces of Amelia’s background and how she ended up in the hospital are doled out with care and suspense. A sequel is required.
An independent woman
The eccentricities of Victorian England receive a rousing look in the highly entertaining new series about 25-year-old Veronica Speedwell, an independent woman whose freedom and sense of self isn’t always accepted.
Deanna Raybourn, best known for her Lady Julia Grey series and other bestselling romance novels, brings an energetic storytelling and a strong sense of history to A Curious Beginning.
In 1887, attitudes toward women and sexual freedom are beginning to change but not quickly enough for the liberated Veronica. An illegitimate child, she was raised by two women who called themselves her aunts although they were not related. Veronica felt close to one of the women but had an uneasy relationship with the other. The makeshift family frequently moved, sometimes four times in one year.
Now that both women have died, Veronica is free to travel the world, continue her role as a self-taught scientist and lepidopterist, which also has provided her a tidy income from selling mounted butterflies.
But returning home after the funeral to pick up her packed bag, Veronica interrupts a vandal who tries to abduct her. She is saved by her own fighting experience and helped by Baron Maximilian von Stauffenbach, a stranger who insists she is in grave danger and must accompany him to London. While she hides at the London studio of natural historian Revelstoke “Stoker” Templeton-Vane, the baron is murdered. To find out who killed the baron and whether his death is connected to Veronica, she and Stoker flee across England, ending up in London three days before Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee.
Raybourn keeps the plot moving while delving into the culture and history of Victorian England. While Veronica’s independence may seem unlikely, given the era, Raybourn grounds A Curious Beginning in reality, using as a model the female adventurers of the times. The sexual tension between Veronica and the equally mysterious Stoker works well.
Oline H. Cogdill reviewed these books for The Sun Sentinel.
Meet the authors
▪ Deanna Raybourn appears at 7 p.m. Thursday at Murder on the Beach, 273 Pineapple Grove Way, Delray Beach.
▪ Kristy Montee, who, along with her sister Kelly Nichols, writes as P.J. Parrish, appears at 7 p.m. Friday at Murder on the Beach.