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Grudge By J.L Campbell

4 Stars****



Grudge opens in Xantrope with our heroine eerily describing her own drowning death. Who is trying to kill Corretta “Corra” Bingham and why??? When it appears she is perishing at the hands of her assailant, an off-duty police officer witnesses the struggle, comes to her rescue and scares off her attacker.

What follows is a suspense laden romance tale of two “relationship dodgers” — one that is staunchly independent, much to the detriment of their safety, and the other whose proclivity for law enforcement blurs the lines between private and professional duties.

Corra is a special event planner in her native Jamaica. She is spoiled and defiantly independent – sometimes too much for her own good. She is a member of a prominent and wealthy family that shuns negative publicity. Because of their negative impact on her life, police officers aren’t held in high regard by Corra. Both her cheating ex-fiancé and her domineering father are police officers, therefore, that’s two strikes against the profession.

Her rescuer is, Detective Inspector Phillip Denham. He possesses all the qualities Corra desires in a man, except one, his occupation … strike three for the safety forces. Phillip, also a Jamaican, is in Xantrope to unravel a recently discovered family mystery. While serving as Corra’s personal security, he is determined to uncover the reason for the attempted drowning and other threats on her life in the past. Clearly, someone has a grudge against her and Phillip is using his investigative skills to find out who it is. Something about this stubborn and defiant woman tugs at his heart.

Corra and Phillip are complicated people that I find exasperating and endearing at the same time. They seek solace in their careers where they excel and elude romantic relationships where they falter. Secondary characters impacting this story include their respective families who are responsible for the family drama consuming Cora and Phillip.

The pacing of the first half of this novel is very slow. I was tempted to skip pages, but I didn't want to miss any clues that might help solve this mystery. Fortunately, the storyline picks up at the midpoint. I was frustrated by the novel’s length (69 short chapters) and some obvious proofreading errors (inconsistent spelling of Phillip), but J.L. Campbell salvaged Grudge with funny exchanges, strong characters and a unique storyline. The use of third person narration by the three main characters in alternating chapters is well done. If contemporary romantic suspense is your genre, this novel is for you.

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