Yeah, yeah, I'm late posting my TBR Challenge review again. I have only my procrastination and ridiculously busy work thing to blame; that's my story and I'm sticking to it. However, I did have the thing read well before the third Wednesday of the month -- does that count?
I mentioned over on Wendy's blog that the book I chose was one that would be more apt for next month's challenge, 'Catch Up On a Series', but I'm sure Brenda Novak's The Perfect Liar was recommended to me by someone, somewhere, along the way, so...thhhp! Next month, I'll do the reverse and read a recommended book, possibly Broken Wing by Judith James (a book cherished by KristieJ), or jump on the bandwagon and read a Laura Lee Guhrke classic (what the what was up with that in February? Like, everyone read Conor's Way!).
Cue Ava and her role as Kalyna's advocate as they begin to navigate the emotional devastation of rape in the first degree. During their first meeting, Ava agrees to take Kalyna's case with the understanding that she'll assist as much as possible given that the Air Force is handling this in their own way, not making it a civilian police case. Ava would love to take ever single case that walked into her office, and she's having a hard time remaining unbiased as Kalyna relives the night she was raped. But in all honesty, this one is going to be a bear just for the single fact that she'd be advocating for one of the Air Force's own, and they'll do anything to keep a lid on this. Things get even dicier once Ava starts investigating Kalyna and Luke and finds that all is not what it seems on the surface.
As a thriller, The Perfect Liar does just that. I love sick, twisted baddies in my thrillers and romantic suspenses, and Brenda Novak concocted a doozey in this one. It becomes obvious just how innocent Luke is in all of this pretty early on in the book, and from there a vivid picture of stalking and obsession is painted of just how much Kalyna wants him. Disturbing, but page-turning. I thought Ms. Novak had dreamed up sick-o's in The Perfect Couple, but she's a talent for writing deviant characters. I would've been satisfied without the romance between Luke and Ava which, of course, builds during a time when one wouldn't be out searching for their One True Love. But of course, that's the definition of romantic suspense (or even Lifetime suspense movies, for that matter), scare the snot out of the reader, and then make 'em feel better with a love story. *shrug*
Will I chalk TPL up with with my favorite book of all times? Eh, not so much. I liked it enough to read it in two days, but it was honestly the suspense that drove this book. It makes me think that Brenda Novak could easily turn to straight mystery thrillers and not skip a beat. I could see her pulling a Tami Hoag or Linda Castillo, who both easily stepped from contemporary and category romance to straight suspense and are, in my opinion, better than ever, which is saying a lot since I've loved many of their earlier books.
So, if I were to be asked what stood out for me in this book besides the baddie, it would have to be Ava. Her life hasn't been the easiest, given that her mother is in jail for attempted murder, but she's gone the distance to get where she is now and loves what she does. I identified with Ava not for her less-than-picture-perfect family, but for her own self opinion. Once her attraction for Luke begins to grow, it's her knee jerk reaction to immediately think that he'd never see anything more in her than a way out of his current situation, which, admittedly, sucks right now. In other words, he's hot, and she's not - or so she thinks.
With Luke, well....he's hot. And he's honestly a great guy who's lurved by everybodddyy. He's the knight in shining armor, flies fighter jets, pays his bills on time, has a great relationship with his parents, and acts on most decisions after only heavily weighing the consequences (jury's still out on why he ended up in Kalyna's bed, but then we wouldn't have had a story). And he's younger than Ava. For me, that sums him up. I recognized him as a character, the hero at that, but couldn't get too emotionally invested in him. Ava rang more true to me, and of course we all now know how I felt about Kalyna.
I'd have to rate this book in two ways -- C+/B- for the romance, but a strong A for the thriller/baddie angle.