One of the things I like about romantic suspense as a genre is that—when it works—the romance heightens the suspense while the suspense deepens the romance. Frequently, these books are about those who don’t know what they’re getting into, which also serves to increase the tension.
Shiloh Walker’s If You Know Her is the final book in her Ash trilogy. In the first book, we were introduced to a brutal killer who is still at large, still unknown, when If You Know Her begins, despite the police having closed the case because they think they’ve killed the killer. Nia Hollister, the first victim’s cousin, has returned to Ash because, as she says,
“I can’t go home. I can’t. In my gut, I know there’s something more to what happened. I know it. And I’m going crazy just sitting at home—I can’t work, I can’t sleep, I can barely eat. This is dominating my mind and unless I do something, it’s going to drive me crazy.”
Naturally her relentless determination puts her in harms way. And even though she’s a tough woman, no shrinking violet, she’s not prepared for the malevolence of this particular killer. I particularly liked this line, from late in the story, when the killer has been identified (so I’ve left out the name):
As much as she wanted to be out there doing something to find [the killer], Nia wasn’t about to do the dumb chick thing and put her ass out where it didn’t belong. She was a photographer, not a cop.
Well, thank goodness! (Really, I should know after the article she wrote right here on CE that Shiloh Walker wouldn’t have a TSTL heroine taking the cop’s job.) And yet, when Nia does find something, and goes to her lover Law (who, despite his name, is a writer, not a lawyer), he keeps her out of the investigation.
Nia shot a look at the darkness of the trees.
She wanted—needed to get back there. But how could she possibly hope to, now? Assuming she even could. As though he’d been intent on throwing her off, Law had led them on a winding, confusing trail back to the house and she hadn’t been thinking clearly enough to pay attention on the way in to note details.
And of course, lousy reception meant she couldn’t really mark the area either,
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Law and she stiffened her spine, kept her gaze focused straight ahead. It was a stab of betrayal, even looking at him. He’d locked her out.
Kept her on the outside when she’d been the one to push him into finding this. The bastard.
“How long are you going to stay pissed at me?”
She set her jaw. Damned if she’d speak to him right now. Son of a bitch.
He sighed. “I’m not doing this to cut you out, Nia. Whether you believe it or not, I’m doing you a favor here.”
Her resolution to remain silent splintered under her fury. Wheeling around, she glared at him. “I don’t want your damned favors,” she snarled. “I don’t need yoru coddling, your protection, your fucking knight in shining armour routine. Maybe you need to ride in and save the day with Tinkerbell in there, but I don’t need a hero, damn it. Y’all never would have even bothered to look for anything if it wasn’t for me. How could you cut me out like that?”
“Because I’m going to have fucking nightmares after what I saw,” he snapped. “I’d rather it not be in your head.”
Then he stopped, took a deep breath. “You want to be pissed off, you be pissed off. I’m sorry if I hurt you—that wasn’t my intention. But if I had to make the same call, I’d do it again, And I’m not sorry for that.”
The tension between Law and Nia creates adds emotion to the thrills inherent in any serial killer book. Strong men, strong women, strong killers and lots of emotion…that’s what good romantic suspense has on offer!