07 July 2014

Review: Janice Kay Johnson's The Mysteries of Angel Butte series is a compelling, touching, and suspenseful 4-1/2 star read!

This fall I began I picked up Janice Kay Johnson’s Bringing Maddie Home and couldn’t put it down. I became engrossed in this story of a teenager gone missing, a police detective who never gives up, and a woman who has a frightening history she can’t remember.

This first book in Johnson’s The Mysteries of Angel Butte series set the bar high for the rest of the stories, but book by book she has met that challenge and exceeded it. One of the reasons I find this series so fascinating is Johnson's ability to portray her characters so vividly and so distinctly. These books were my introduction to the Harlequin SuperRomance line, for which Johnson is a regular and beloved contributor - and they've definitely sold me on it.

Bringing Maddie Home solved some of the mysteries of this small town in Oregon, but left others - of course - unresolved. Cait McAllister (sister of Police Captain Colin) intrigued me on her appearance in Bringing Maddie Home. Featured in the second book, Everywhere She Goes  Cait is a strong heroine who is more than a match for the commanding and unconventional mayor of Angel Butte, Noah Chandler. Johnson has devised a mystery in this book that engrossed this reader, who also more than enjoyed the sparks between Cait and Noah as well as the troubled sibling relationship, heightened by the animosity between Colin and Noah.

With a new chief of police brought in from outside Angel Butte to help clean up the corruption, Janice Kay Johnson adds a new hero to the her The Mysteries of Angel Butte series. In Alec Raynor, Johnson creates a hero that I think every reader would swoon for in All a Man Is  the third book in the series. Not to disappoint the ladies of Angel Butte, but it seems like he only has eyes for Julia, his brother’s widow, who moves into the adjoining condo with her two children. Their story, how they grow to trust one another, how the children are effected by the move, was center stage in this All a Man Is. While there is definitely mystery and suspense in All a Man Is  it’s really the family dynamics that made the pages fly in my Kindle. Johnson’s sensitivity to her characters shone in this entry.

I’m so happy that Johnson decided that there were more stories to tell in The Mysteries of Angel Butte than the trilogy she originally intended. Book four, Cop by Her Side, focuses on one of the supporting characters that I wanted to know more about, Angel Butte Police Lieutenant Jane Vahalik. She’s played a role in most of the investigations, from the discover of a backpack in the first book to being the first responder in a hostage situation in the third, Jane is someone who definitely jumps off the page. In the stories, it was evident that there had been some kind of relationship gone wrong between Jane and Sheriff Department’s Sergeant Clay Renner, a former Army Ranger, but the details weren’t known.

In Cop by Her Side we learn about what happened between Jane and Clay when they’re thrown together during the abduction of her niece from Jane’s sisters almost fatal car accident. At first glance a working relationship between them seems impossible as Clay appears to be an unrepentant chauvinist, while Jane not only holds higher rank than he does, but she’s also someone who doesn’t fade into the background. Soon it becomes apparent that Jane and Clay both carry scars from their parental upbringing that could derail any close relationships. However if they can overcome them, perhaps they might have a chance together. This story is fascinating on many levels and the interrelationships of the characters make this a most compelling read.

This Good Man (September 1, 2014) is the concluding entry in The Mysteries of Angel Butte series and will detail an alumnus of the secretive runaway youth shelter according to Janice Kay Johnson’s forward in Cop by Her Side. It goes on sale in September and I can’t wait to read it!

I’m awarding four and a half stars to this very compelling, touching, and suspenseful series. So if you’re looking to read stories this summer that meld mystery with beautifully detailed characters, pick up The Mysteries of Angel Butte series by Janice Kay Johnson and don’t forget the sunblock!

From the Publisher

The Mysteries of Angel Butte series by Janice Kay Johnson

Book 1
Bringing Maddie Home by Janice Kay Johnson
Harlequin SuperRomance
ISBN 9780373718849
Price $4.99
Publication Date: November 1, 2013
There's always one case…
The moment police captain Colin McAllister sees her on TV he knows. She may call herself Nell Smith, but she is Maddie Dubeau—the girl who went missing from Angel Butte, Oregon, years ago. She's haunted Colin, and now the adult version of her is so captivating, he can't stay away. He wants to help her recover her memories—even solve her case—without crossing a professional line.
But distance becomes impossible when the threats against her escalate. It's clear someone is determined that Nell never remembers what happened to Maddie. Colin must keep her safe so that he can finally bring her home…to his home.

Book 2
Everywhere She Goes by Janice Kay Johnson
Harlequin SuperRomance
ISBN 9781460324523
Price $4.99
Publication Date: January 1, 2014
Standing between her…and danger
Returning to her hometown is Cait McAllister's chance to stand on her own. That means taking a break from men and relationships. Then she meets her new boss, the intriguing Noah Chandler. As the mayor, he's got bold plans for Angel Butte. As a man, he's so tempting that Cait's vow of independence is in jeopardy.
The most persuasive part of him, however, could be the way he looks out for her. Because when a threat from her past puts her in danger, Noah is there to protect her. And there's no way she can resist a man who has so much invested in keeping her safe.

Book 3
All a Man Is by Janice Kay Johnson
Harlequin SuperRomance
ISBN 9781460327869
Price $4.99
Publication Date: March 1, 2014
Is this reward worth the risk?
Big risks hold no appeal for Julia Raynor after losing her husband to his high-danger career. And his vice cop brother, Alec, doesn't seem much different—although he is there for her and the kids. So when her son is headed for big-city trouble, Alec voluntarily becomes police chief in Angel Butte, Oregon, to remove him from temptation.
But temptation stalks more than her son. Living close to Alec, the long-denied attraction Julia harbors won't be ignored. And Alec's actions say it's not one-sided. Can she believe in another Raynor man? Yet, when a threat catches up with her family, Julia knows Alec is the only one she can trust

Book 4
Cop by Her Side by Janice Kay Johnson
Harlequin SuperRomance
ISBN 9780373606429
Price $4.99
Publication Date: July 1, 2014

Does she put her trust in him…again?
Lieutenant Jane Vahalik is done with Sergeant Clay Renner. He messed up their romance when he dished out too much male swagger. She gets enough of that on the job to put up with it in her personal life—regardless of how hot Clay may be.
Then her niece is kidnapped, and suddenly he is the only cop Jane trusts to lead the search. The rush of attraction sizzling between them surprises her. So does his determination to prove she's wrong about him. It could be just the tense situation—or it could be Clay—but Jane's feelings for him are growing. Maybe they deserve a second chance….