Book Reviews

Book Review: Deception in Paradise by Deborah Brown – Falls Short of Creating a Heroine I Could Root For

When Janet Evanovich hit it big with her Stephanie Plum series, there were bound to be copycats. One of these is the “In Paradise” series by author Deborah Brown. Now up to 28 books in the series, I’m still not sure it has me hooked on book number two.

Madison Westin inherited her aunt’s home and cottages in the Florida Keys. She’s still trying to get her bearings on managing the place herself when her ex-husband, Jax, plops himself on her sofa one day and announces he’s back and he wants what’s due him. Madison doesn’t think he has a case, but just in case, she decides to keep him close for the time being. Par for the course with Jax, he makes friends with the local low-hanging fruit, then finds himself in trouble when one of them goes missing.

Not content to let the police investigate, Madison starts digging on her own, hoping that the sooner Jax is cleared of murder, the sooner he’ll be out of her life for good.

The biggest problem I had with the book was that for all of her bluster about wanting to be an independent woman, Madison continually makes choices where she will need to get help from other people. Either that, or the mess just gets bigger. Both things do happen in the story. She’s dealing with a low-life ex who thinks nothing of breaking in where he knows he’s not wanted and stealing things from Madison, including her brother’s boat. However, Madison seems to shrug off his illegal escapades in favor of helping him. Why? He’s an ex for a reason and it’s clear she doesn’t have feelings for him. Yet time and time again in the book Madison puts her own life in danger for him and ignores the warnings. He and his buddies even break into her tool shed at the cottages and pawn everything. Instead of turning them into the police and getting her stuff back that way, Madison finds the pawn slips and buys it all back. What.the.hell? We;re supposed to see her as a strong, independent female and yet she’s getting walked all over by her ex for no apparent reason.

She also has no problem putting other people in danger. At one point, she enlists one of her tenants in the cottages to help her get information. Again and again, he tells her he’s scared for his life, but Madison pushes him anyway. There’s more going on in the Keys than tourism and Madison isn’t afraid of being in the middle of it, though she should be.

Many of the characters from the first book are back, including Madison’s meddling mother. Her love interest is here, but his possessiveness is becoming a turn-off as he tries to tell Madison what to do. Nevermind that he’s right in most cases, he’d prefer Madison give up her independence and move in with him. Of course, this makes Madison dig in all the more and leaves room to introduce an interesting new character, Creole.

The mystery isn’t all that gripping, either. I figured out the bulk of it early on. There are clues aplenty that give it away while readers are expected to laugh at all of Jax’s mishaps. For me, personally, it was a lot of what the hell moments strung together.

Since the books have been free with my Kindle Unlimited account, I’ll see if the series gets any better in the next few books. If not, I’ll give up. I felt the first book was a little uneven but showed promise. Deception in Paradise failed to deliver on the promise.

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