Setting: New Jersey, present day
Ashton Sutherland saved Felicia Redding’s life after an automobile accident left her with enormous medical expenses and only one leg. He anonymously paid her bills and sent her to college. Now, in return, he has revealed himself and asked her to serve as an image consultant for his family’s prestigious golf course, The Pines.
A big decision affecting The Pines’ future and monetary worth divides family loyalties, and everyone is suspicious of Felicia. Suspicion escalates when Ashton accidentally dies while horseback riding with Felicia and the family learns that Ashton unexpectedly made her heir to a controlling block of the golf course shares.
Ashton’s will further stipulates that the will’s executors, his two twin sons, Damien and Slade, must fulfill their estate settlement duties to the letter or all estate proceeds will go to charities.
Damien and Slade have been at odds for some time, so this presents a major challenge. Throwing Felicia into the mix adds another level of complexity to the situation. To top things off, Slade blames Felicia for his father’s death.
Due to his animosity toward Felicia, Slade must quash his physical attraction to her. These warring emotions may be difficult for the reader to understand. Felicia has similar problems, because Slade is berating her with one hand while coming on to her with the other. This situation does not logically lead to romance, yet the author declares this outcome based on sheer animal magnetism.
Every member of the Sutherland family is avaricious, openly crude, vicious, and very foul mouthed. Surprisingly, Slade is the only one with any latent scruples. He initially treats Felicia so abominably, however, that it is difficult for the reader to hold out any hope for his redemption in her eyes.
It seems obvious from the outset that the reader’s task will be to determine which of the family members is trying to kill Felicia. Everyone has a motive. Readers may balk at believing that family members will openly conspire to kill her for monetary gain. It is definitely over the top. Then more deaths occur, and the plot thickens.
Author Christine Janssen pushes the envelope by presenting a one-legged heroine. Considerable research obviously has been done on amputees’ challenges, and they are graphically and touchingly detailed. Felicia is gutsy, brave, and vulnerable.
Sex scenes are also quite graphic and extremely steamy, with both points of view extensively described. Merely locking eyes across the room can result in both parties’ “groins tightening.”
Reader engagement at the beginning of the book is hampered by the author’s slavish attention to providing two unusual adjectives for almost every noun. Fortunately this effort relaxes as the book progresses, allowing the author’s fine natural style to surface so the story can be more effectively told.
Readers who enjoy steamy sex, crude language, in-your-face conflict, a handicapped heroine, and the challenge of sifting the true villain from a large cast of evil prospects will find all this and more in Stand On Your Own. This cozy is anything but cozy. Using an earthy and edgy style, Janssen paints this bold and brash family into an unexpected corner. Readers will sympathize with her equally bold and brash heroine and find her well suited to the tortured hero.
ISBN: 1-59088-939-8, trade paperback and download, Suspense, Wings Press, 338 pp.
–Kristi Lyn Glass, Publisher, Gothic Journal