With an ARC of Wendy Roberts’s Bodies of Evidence #4 waiting in the wings, I went to the first because I cannot bear coming to a series midway. Besides, I like two of the series’ premises: a heroine with divining powers and a May-to-December romance (her twenty-five to his forty-five). From the get-go, Roberts’s heroine, Julie Hall, aka Delma Arsenault, is a mess, but a likeable one. She lives with her Rottweiler, Wookie, in an old trailer on her grandfather’s property . She works at the local gas station, plays with her dog, takes care of Gramps, and fights off the urge to drink. Julie is a woman with dark, difficult memories of abandonment (by her mother) and physical abuse by her grandmother. Despite this, she is neither lugubrious, or weepy. I liked her for that: she’s darkly funny, caring, even loving, but rough around the edges and her mouth makes a sailor blush. She also carries an unlikely ability: to locate the missing dead with the use of divining rods, or as they’re called in the novel, dowsing rods. Into Julie’s work-home-walk-dog life walks FBI Agent Garrett Pierce, on the trail of a serial killer. He wants Julie’s help to find the missing girls, to recover their bodies, to bring him closer to catching the killer.
Darkly handsome, Garrett is suit to Julie’s jeans. But they make a great team: he’s patient and kind to the darkness in her and she, in turn, is mouthy and funny to his somewhat humourless demeanor. But Garrett’s past is as difficult as Julie’s, if for different reasons. (There’s a lovely scene where they bond over self-help books, ruefully acknowledging how messed up they are.) Julie’s mad divining skills are amazing and Garrett respects her for them. They’re both driven by a need to help and save. The abductions and killings intensity and soon, with her own life in danger, Julie has been moved into Garrett’s apartment. Though the overall mood of their lives is haunted past and urgent present, I loved the scenes between them where they share normality: a great pizza, Julie’s scolding Garrett over the state of his bathroom. They’re obviously attracted to each other; of the two, Julie is the more sexually assertive. Their love scenes are hot and touching. But they’re also two unlikely people who, once you give them time and space to be together, grow in friendship and affection. I liked Garret and Julie together and I liked them apart.
I was enjoying Roberts’s Gave Calling so much that I thought a glom was merited. Until the novel’s last quarter came around. Firstly and most annoyingly, though Julie was asked to stay put in Garrett’s apartment, she started to do things and behave in ways that made her, argh, curse of romantic suspense heroines everywhere, “too stupid to live.” I have to admit I loved Garrett’s response to Julie’s foolishness: he played knight in shining armor without admonishment, or reprimand. He understood where Julie was coming from and why she may have behaved the way she did, given her past. He was, dammit, understanding, smart, and gentle. I was peeved with Julie, but I loved Garrett. The crimes’ resolution was nuts, hurried, and trite. But it brought Julie right back to Garrett’s apartment and arms and I was a-okay with that. While not perfect, I did enjoy A Grave Calling and have every intention of following the series, just to see Garrett and Julie together. With Miss Austen, we say Roberts’s Grave Calling offers “real comfort,” Emma.