Pretend You’re Safe by Alexandra Ivy

The Blurb On The Back:

Jaci Patterson was sixteen when she found the first locket on her porch.

Inside were a few strands of hair wrapped around a scrap of bloodstained ribbon.  Though the ‘gifts’ kept arriving, no one believed her hunch that a serial killer was at work.

Now Jaci has finally returned home – only for bodies of strangled victims to start appearing years after the disappeared.

Her nightmare is beginning all over again.  And this time it won’t end until the murderer makes Jaci his … for ever.

You can order Pretend You’re Safe by Alexandra Ivy from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Jaci Patterson moved back to the small town of Heron in north eastern Missouri two years ago, having swapped working as a graphic designer for baking pastries for local businesses and producing craft products for the local market.  Jaci was raised by her grandparents after her dad was killed by a drunk driver while she was still an infant, her mother abandoning her shortly after to marry local big shot Blake Hamilton.  When her grandparents died, she moved into their house and although it’s isolated, she has two large dogs – RIff and Raff for protection and values her independence.

But when the Mississippi River breaks the local levies, it uncovers a gruesome secret on her neighbour’s land: the body of decomposing woman and a skull.  Jaci immediately wonders if it’s connected to the mysterious lockets she started to get when she was 16 years old – scraps of ribbon with a cheap gold locket containing some hair and blood.  She and her grandparents had reported them to the police but each time she was told that it was probably just a prank and that she shouldn’t worry about it and she hasn’t received one since she returned home.  No matter what local sheriff Mike O’Brien might try to tell her though, she’s sure that the bodies are somehow connected to them, and the theory seems to hold true when she finds a new one outside her front door.

What Jaci hasn’t counted on is the support of handsome Rylan Cooper, the boy-next-door who captured her heart in high school only to make it clear that he had zero interest in her.  Rylan’s come home for a few days to visit his father, having built a successful life for himself in California where he runs a lucrative software company that supplies law enforcement across the country.  It was Rylan who first dismissed Jaci’s fears of the lockets but now he realises how wrong he was because whoever the killer is, they have an obsession for Jaci that will never go away …

To be honest, had I know this was a romantic thriller (with an emphasis on the romance), then I probably wouldn’t have picked it up.  Although Alexandra Ivy hits the usual romance beats in a way that will please fans of the genre, I found Jaci too passive who’s there to be rescued and told what to do by alpha males who know better, the plot is a little silly at times and the antagonist two dimensional.  Ultimately this just isn’t for me. 

I found it very difficult to take to Jaci as a main character, largely because she’s too passive for my tastes.  I was interested in the relationship with her ice queen mother (who chose money and position over her daughter) but Ivy keeps it superficial and ditto Jaci’s relationship with bitchy step-sister Payton.  I liked the fact that Jaci is shown as a young woman with a curvier figure rather than a hot perfect babe, but I really disliked how Ivy constantly refers to her as a woman you marry and put down roots with, which kind of suggested to me that women are there to be supportive partners, home makers and mums.

The inevitable romance with Rylan left me cold, mainly because he’s such a jerk.  I have a real problem with male characters who don’t respect boundaries and won’t take no for an answer and Rylan ticked all those boxes for me.  He constantly behaves as if he knows better than Jaci and seems to view their romance as a matter of attrition, which grated on me (notwithstanding Jaci’s attraction to him).  There’s some alpha male antler battering between him and Mike (another male character with a problem when it comes to listening to women and assuming he knows best) and the two of them go down some pretty wild tangents when it comes to the investigation, which had me rolling my eyes.  The sex scenes are okay but I have to say not really my bag although if you’re a romance fan, you’ll get more from them.

The plot moves fairly quickly but does get silly at times (especially with one abduction) and I guessed the identity of the killer way too early (although I don’t think I missed much by doing that because they are shown in such comic book turns that I had to resist rolling my eyes at times).  I did find the ending distasteful though given the ease with which the characters brush off the fact that they essentially lose their chance of identifying all of the victims or finding new ones as if it’s just oh-shucks-one-of-those-things.

Ultimately, I have to say that this just wasn’t for me. 

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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