Series: Wilds of the Bayou #2
Published by Montlake Romance on October 18th 2016
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For some people, the untamed beauty of the bayou is a place to hide. For Louisiana wildlife agent Jena Sinclair, it’s a place of refuge—one where she can almost forget the tragedy that scarred both her skin and her soul. But when the remains of yet another fisherman turn up, Jena realizes that Bayou Pointe-aux-Chenes is not safe for her…or anyone else.
The mysterious deaths aren’t her only problem. A dangerous drug known as Black Diamond is circulating through Terrebonne Parish, turning addicts into unpredictable sociopaths. Jena’s investigation leads her to Cole Ryan—a handsome, wary recluse struggling with his own troubled history—who knows more than he’s willing to admit. If they want to stop the killer, Jena and Cole must step out of the shadows of their pasts and learn to help each other…before the evils lurking in the bayou consume them both.
An unusual, gory scene in the wild bayou opens the story and had me grimacing straight out in revulsion and sympathy. And maybe that was how I had a good feeling that this was going to be a wild and exciting joyride in store.
I emerged from the last page a little dazed and needing more, glad that my initial suspicions were proven right.
Riveting and well-written, ‘Black Diamond’ was hard to put down as it introduced lead characters with their quietly broken pasts we never really find out about until much later because the suspense and the brisk action took precedence over the romance. Drug-running and smuggling in the Louisiana bayou frame Cole’s and Jena’s ever-growing connection, but even that tenuous friendship and attraction fade slightly into the background as Susannah Sandlin carefully draws out the mystery and the tangled web of lies that Jena and her partner Mac have to wade through.
It’s also primarily why I’d be more comfortable categorising ‘Black Diamond’ as a suspense novel with romantic elements, rather than romantic suspense. The slow, slow build between Cole and Jena isn’t quite the priority or the central focus of the book, which made every scene with them together all the more precious, intense and excruciating. I hankered after every part of their relationship development, disappointed when it only solidified in the epilogue and not earlier as I’d hoped.
Yet for all the little we’ve been given of them, I loved both of them together immensely, but perhaps more so because they handled themselves in a manner – withdrawal and uncertainty yet with so much contemplation and self-awareness – that I found myself able to respect more than the typical response of (male) characters who simply become unthinking womanisers after a momentous tragedy in this genre.
That Jena/Cole managed to forge a gentle, quiet understanding early on surprised me pleasantly – Cole learns that the isolated hermit he has been isn’t who he wants to be when he is with Jena; she conversely, lets her own pain go when she finds the same depth of empathy with him. That there’s such dignity and maturity written into them made it all the more difficult to see the pages close on their tentative steps towards a future that’s finally sort of broken free of their pasts. But this being a series, I can only hope both Cole and Jena – with the odd man Mac – will return soon.