Fresh Meat: Twisted by Laura K. Curtis

Twisted, a novel of romantic suspense by Laura K. CurtisTwisted by Laura K. Curtis is a novel of romantic suspense about a true crime author who returns to her Texas hometown to solve her mother's murder (available November 19, 2013).

Aside from being a tightly-plotted romantic suspense, Twisted by Laura K.Curtis serves as fascinating commentary about small town life.

Lucy Caldwell returns to the small Texas town she grew up in to solve her mother’s murder. No longer is she the daughter of the town prostitute; she’s a rather successful true crime author. But the majority of Dobbs Hollow residents can’t see past her mother’s reputation. And as most of them saw it, like mother, like daughter. One of the very few people in town who'll give Lucy the benefit of the doubt is a young woman cop. As Tara Jean, or TJ for short tells her boss, the Chief of Police:

“Cecile was stabbed to death seventeen years ago. When Lucy was fifteen and Tim was around three. We never saw Lucy or her brother again. Sheriff Pike’s daddy was chief then, and he didn’t give a tinker’s damn about who’d murdered the town whore, so eventually the talk died down and the whole ‘unpleasant incident’ was forgotten.”

. . .

TJ took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Small towns are all about family and family names.” She chewed a thumbnail as she spoke. “Mine’s good so it can take a beating. People even forgave me for taking a real job when I should have been home baking cookies and making babies. But the Sadlers couldn’t do anything right.  More than that, no matter what they did, they couldn’t escape their names.”

The new police chief, Ethan Donovan, is an outsider, someone who was hired from Houston and so doesn’t have the town baggage. After seeing the impact of Lucy’s presence in town, and being unable to reconcile the way she’s being treated, he tells her:

“But whatever [your mother] may have been or may have done, it doesn’t explain the level of animosity directed your way almost twenty years later. Face it, however important Cecile Sadler was to her kids, she didn’t have enough of an impact on anybody else to turn this whole place against you.”

The fresh insight into Lucy Sadler Caldwell that Chief Donovan displays is hard to come by for someone who’s lived with the rumors and innuendoes all of her life. In fact, it takes two different examples for town resident Eulie Martin to see the fact that this woman is not, and has never been, her mother. After Lucy displays kindness to Eulie's niece and… a bit of pointed unkindness to Eulie's ex-husband, the townswoman offers this simple bit of conversation:

Eulie stopped her on the way out. Lucy braced herself for another attack and was unprepared when the woman thanked her for her kindness to Cassandra.

“No thanks necessary. She’s a lovely child.”

“She is.” Eulie shifted and took a deep breath. “About Jed. He always was an ass.”

And with that one comment, a piece of the ice has thawed. Maybe not forever, but in that moment, Lucy is given a chance.

Lucy also gets a break and an interesting story about her mother from someone else in Dobbs Hollow.

“I heard about your plans when you came back to town, and I saw you when you were in the other day. I was going to approach you then, but I had to talk to Josh first, ask him if it was okay.  We’re engaged, you see, and we’re in a bit of a tenuous position here in town, so I can’t do anything that might disrupt the situation further without his approval.”

“Of course.” Black ex-con engaged to white woman in a small southern town. Lucy guessed ‘tenuous’ didn’t begin to describe their situation.

The story this woman tells is helpful to the investigation, but also goes a long way towards demonstrating how precarious Lucy’s position in Dobbs Hollow is. Lucy only receives help from those who can see past her mother’s reputation to the woman Lucy herself has become. And all of these people are outsiders themselves, each of them impacted by the twisted path carved by gossip, innuendo, and bad reputations.

 

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It took Stacey Agdern the Odyssey of the Bar Exam to discover what her parents knew all along…that she was meant to be a writer. Now she uses her degrees in International Law and Political Science, as well her love of travel, music, reading, hockey, anime/manga, mythology, and foreign languages to fuel her writing, and channels her knowledge of Romance into her day-job as an award winning bookseller.

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