Archive | 4:21 pm

Review: Next of Kin by Sharon Sala

24 Jan

Next of Kin by Sharon Sala
Harlequin/MIRA (Jan. 30, 2012)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $6.99
ISBN: 9780778313120

Favorite Line: “But his voice was like warm whiskey on a cold night, and she kept remembering what his lips felt like on her skin when they made love.” (p. 87, egalley)

Beth Venable has seen too much. Witness to a major mob hit, she’s placed in protective custody until the trial. But after her third safe house is riddled with bullets, she goes off-grid to save herself. What the FBI can’t do, her kinfolk will.

The beautiful but forbidding Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky welcome Beth back, dirt roads and rustic shacks a world apart from L.A. But her homecoming—even her blissful reunion with strong, silent Ryal Walker—is made bittersweet by the fight she’s brought to the clan’s doorstep. Hidden in a remote cabin with the man she’s always wanted, Beth begins to dream of a new life: her old one. But after so long, with such dangers stalking her…impossible.

But love can distill life down to its essence: an elixir of pure hope, nerve—and the will to survive.

There was a time when everything Sharon Sala wrote was an instant buy for me. That’s changed over the years and now her works a collection of hits and misses for me. Next of Kin fell into the miss category.  I wasn’t surprised by anything and could have told you what was going to happen. My mother, who is in her late fifties, felt otherwise. She enjoyed the story and thought it provided a quick escape.

I wonder if the author watched the movie Next of Kin (1989) before she wrote the story. You know the movie with Patrick Swayze as a native of Appalachia righting a wrong done by the mob…In Sala’s version of Next of Kin the heroine Beth was raised in Rebel Ridge, Kentucky. It’s a small, poor area that isn’t even marked on a map. It’s also one of those areas by the Appalachian Mountains where everyone is some how related to one another. As a young girl Beth fell in love with her cousin, but before he could marry her, her parents packed and took her from Rebel Ridge in the middle of the night. Years have passed, but neither Beth or her former lover, Ryal, have forgotten the other or found new relationships. Both are convinced the other ended the budding relationship, but as with most close knit families nothing will stop Ryal from helping Beth when she needs him.

See right there is part of the squickyness of Next of Kin. I can’t imagine hooking up with a cousin. Not a third, fourth or fifth cousin or a cousin twice removed. It impacted my enjoyment of the book big time. Sala states:

“Up on the mountain, it wasn’t uncommon for distant cousins to marry. Her mother and his mother had been fourth cousins and not even close friends at that. And the difference in his and Beth’s ages wasn’t uncommon, either. He’d been twenty-five to her seventeen.”–p. 8

I’m sure many people won’t have an issue with all of this, but I do. It colored everything that happened in the book.

Similar to the movie, the mob is on the move and an Appalachian native gets wrapped up in it. In Sala’s version, Beth witnesses a woman being killed. The killer is in the mob and seems to find Beth no matter where the police or FBI send her. To protect herself she calls on her relatives and finds her way home to Rebel Ridge and by extension Ryal. Slowly the two work their way through the past. Beth discovers the reason she was taken from Rebel Ridge and the two lovers rekindle their passion for one another. Meanwhile, the suspense keeps building as the bad guys search for Beth. Eventually the story works up to the big obligatory battle between the backwoods men and the city slickers and yes, bows and arrows are involved.

Nothing was unexpected. I didn’t care for any of the characters and the romance was icky to me. I guess you can mark this one as a big fat I didn’t like it check mark. I seem to be in the minority though. Everywhere I look I see four and five star reviews of Next of Kin. Have you read it? What did you think? Do you feel age gaps and how character’s are related add or detract from a story? I know that I’m cool with 500-year-old vampires hooking up with 22-year-old women, so yeah, I’m aware I don’t make much sense. But I’d be calling the cops on a 20 something who thought he was getting with my teenager. I’m just sayin.