Elizabeth Janette's new book, REDEMPTION FOR LIARS, has almost everything: adorable child and dog, tortured (but hot!) man, feisty but vulnerable woman, evil villain, and quirky supporting cast. WC Field's famous admonition "Never work with children or animals" to the contrary, the formula works. Almost.
FBI Agent Jonah White is devastated when his sister is found dead, an apparent suicide. When he discovers that she'd recently given a small fortune to Eli Savantes, Jonah becomes convinced she was murdered, especially when Eli is found dead himself shortly after. Jonah takes a leave from the FBI to investigate his only remaining lead, Eli's widow, Maya Savantes.
Meanwhile, roller-skating diner waitress Maya is struggling to manage the mountain of debt Eli left behind while raising their five-year-old daughter, Lily. At first suspicious, Maya soon welcomes help from handsome stranger Jonah, while little Lily is enchanted with Jonah's dog, Dax. With help from an unlikely group of local would-be fairy godmothers, Maya's growing attraction to Jonah blossoms into a fragile romance.
But that promising beginning is soon undercut by the secrets both are keeping and by the escalating violence of an evil mastermind willing to go to any lengths to achieve his goals.
I'd give REDEMPTION FOR LIARS four stars for Elizabeth Janette's command of her genre, engaging and often funny dialog, and sweet romance. The pace builds nicely, slow at first and then speeding to the final explosive confrontation. The author's voice is bright and often laugh-out-loud humorous.
Would it be a sin to bitch slap the woman a little bit, until some common sense got knocked into her head? She wondered if that would constitute a big sin, or just a little sin. A little sin she could live with.
Both Maya and Jonah have significant flaws and trust issues that threaten to derail their fragile romance, while their characters' growth to overcome these barriers had me cheering them on. Their developing relationship is sweet and romantic, with just the right touch of a single-mom's exhaustion, a five-year-old's grief for her missing father, and an FBI agent's guilt over the sister he failed to save. The villain is appropriately heartless in his unrelenting destruction.
There were a few pieces that didn't hang together convincingly for me. Occasionally, things happened that weren't explained until later. For example, Maya's ancient car has died, followed up with a note from Jonah explaining that he was unable to fix it and she would need a new one. But without explanation, the next thing we read is that she pulls into the parking lot at work. It's not until another ten pages that she hints that he's fixed her car, at least temporarily.
Another bigger problem is difficult to document without spoilers. So I'll just say that the praiseworthy goal of making the villain more three-dimensional by providing a root explanation justifying his actions falls completely flat for me. I had trouble going from a villain who thought "screwing with his head was even more fun than planning how he'd kill him," to one who was just "...seeking redemption for the mistakes he'd made in life." Even more annoying is that the initial murder driving all of the subsequent events is never really explained.
But these are minor issues compared to the overall bright, fast-paced, character-driven story of REDEMPTION FOR LIARS. I enjoyed its engaging characters, sweet romance, and entertaining dialog. And I'll certainly be watching for Elizabeth Janette's next book.