My rating: 3 of 5 stars
More like at 2.5 but it wasn't all bad. This was more suspense than mystery which isn't really my preference and worse, romantic suspense. I didn't know that when I picked it up at the library sale, nor that it was part of a series (which I can imagine is basically one operative from St. Kilda after another falling for their clients).
It opens with an old woman, Modesty, being tortured and killed for some paintings. From there we meet Jill, her grand-niece, who is a river guide. She saves Lane, the son of Joe Faroe who seems to own St. Kilda consulting (mostly a private protection/investigation organization). Jill also has an art background and knows her aunt's paintings are from a very well known Western artist who was her grandmother's lover, so she's stunned when no one will even talk to her about her paintings except for the group Modesty sent the smallest of thirteen paintings to. They accused her of trying to pass off these 'fakes' as the real deal. Soon Jill is threatened and that painting given back to her in shreds. She calls in Joe Faroe who sends her Zack.
I was surprised that Zack seemed to know all about art (it gets explained later but I think I missed where they knew to send an art expert). Naturally Jill and Zack find themselves attracted to each other as he tries to keep her safe and tries to help prove this paintings are real and worth millions.
Part of the problem is the definitive collector of this particular artist is trying to donate his paintings to a museum after a huge Vegas auction where the son of the painter is selling his. Both men, rich and powerful, have a vested interest in there not being a dozen new paintings to drive down the price and someone has hired, Score, a fixer. He's the one who handled Modesty and is out to kill Jill as well.
There is a lot of action in this and some twists. Once again the whole romance thing falls flat for me especially when they're playing footsies in front of an old collector who Zack wants to help them. LIke literally. Oh look he rubbed my thigh with his, I'll rub my rock hard nipples on his arm. Also Jill seemed awfully old to not know women can have multiple orgasms and had to be shown by Zack. Eye roll.
After a while the whole art side of it started getting a bit repetitive and I had issues with everyone knowing the lingo, like calling all the operatives 'bullet catchers' or the hundred times we repeated the titular 'blue smoke.' Everyone has heard of blowing smoke but blue? not so much.
It was a quick read and all but I did have one big problem with the ending. Find it below under the spoiler warning.
I found the final tension a little ridiculous in many ways. Jill sets herself up as bait, going to meet a guy they know has killed her aunt, shot up several places and people and goes to meet him in the middle of the desert alone because 'she can't let him get away with this.' By this point they know who it is. If St. Kilda is so good and so resourceful why do they need her to be bait? More importantly if she just lays low with the paintings for a few more days there will be no need to kill her. They even say so in the book. It seemed like an unrealistic risk for anyone to take.
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