Purchase on Amazon: A Marked Man
A Marked Man by Stella Cameron
When Max Savage opens his practice in a remote, seductively beautiful bayou town, he hopes it’s the start of a new life. He’s got his reputation as a skilled surgeon, his two brothers by his side and a fresh chance. But soon Max discovers he can’t escape a past riddled with accusations of murder…or the faces of two dead women. Especially since another woman is missing, and he was the last to see her alive.
Annie Duhon knows all about nightmares that shatter life’s dreams and the need to escape the past. But her fascination with Max grows, even when disturbing rumors start to surface and her darkest visions seem to play out in living color. Can she trust Max with her secrets and her deepest desires? Or is he the specter she sees when she sleeps—a killer stalking women with his cleansing fire? Is she about to become his next victim?
Suspenseful. Puzzling. Confusing. Disturbing. Those four adjectives sum up my opinion of this book. The story is set in the rural parish of Toussaint, Louisiana. The focus of the book appears to center around Annie Duhon and Dr. Max Savage. Both characters have moved to Toussaint to escape their pasts and start new lives. Both have secrets from their past that they don’t want revealed.
Readers are first introduced to Annie. We learn early on something traumatic has happened to her in her hometown, and residents have impugned her characte,r forcing her to leave and never return. The mystery behind what happened to her kept me interested in reading further.
Dr. Max Savage, his twin Roche, and Kelly, the oldest half-brother are establishing a posh medical clinic. The brothers have chosen to accompany Max in starting this clinic, since he was forced to leave New York to escape his infamous reputation as a suspected killer of two women with whom he was involved. He was never convicted of the accused crimes because of lack of evidence. Max believes was set up but no idea who would want to destroy his life. So far, no one in Toussaint knows about his past, and he plans to keep it this way.
When the story opens, Max and Annie have already met and established a friendship. Max doesn’t want to advertise this to the town because he fears whoever is after him will hurt Annie just like with his past girlfriends. The attraction is there, but it lacks the sexual tension that really enhances a story involving romance. In fact, I don’t even know if this book should be categorized as “romance.” I’ll explain why later in this review.
Soon, suspicion points to Max as the killer. The sheriff checks into Max’s background and the truth becomes common knowledge to everyone in the parish. Even though a body hasn’t been found yet, Max becomes the number one suspect. Will anyone believe he is innocent as he claims to be, especially Annie? Is he really guilty of murder? If not who is the real murderer? What motivates the killer to set Max up to take the fall? Max tells Annie, “Someone hates me enough to want to ruin my life. And they don’t care if other people die to make sure it happens.”
When a woman turns up missing, suspicion points to Max as the killer. The sheriff checks into Max’s background, and his past becomes public
Even though a body hasn’t been found, Max becomes the number one suspect.
The plot involves numerous events that kept me engaged, searching for clues and answers to these questions. Throw in Wazoo, an eccentric character who claims to have the gift of prophecy, practices hoodoo, and constantly provides cryptic clues throughout the entire story, and you have an intense and suspenseful main plot. These are the main reasons I decided to finish this book.
Puzzling and Confusing:
I found significant flaws with the plot that hindered my enjoyment. First of all the author introduces too many characters into the story. Do we really need to know about everyone in the parish?
Including all these extraneous characters just creates confusion, with too many sub-plots, some which are irrelevant. For example, do we really need to know about the conflicts among the Sheriff’s family? Is Father Cyrus’s relationship with his assistant, Madge, necessary? These sub-plots also create multiple point-of-views that can confuse readers.
Inconsistent character development was an issue for me. This mainly occurs in the two scenes involving sex. For example, Annie is depicted as shy and reserved. Yet, she becomes controlling, demanding, and angry when she initiates sex with Max. Even Max is surprised: “This was unbelievable. Where had this new wild woman come from?” Her actions even affect the calm, gentle Max who becomes aggressive in his pursuit of her: “Oh, no you don’t,” Max said. “You want it. You asked for it and you’re going to get it because you made sure I don’t have a choice anymore.” Did a rape just occur?
Usually cases of rape are black and white for me. If, at any point, a woman says “no” or “stop”, but the man doesn’t then it’s rape. But in this story, it’s unclear. Annie urges Max on, never says stop, but after it’s over, she quickly leaves Max and rushes away to take a shower. She never comes out to talk to Max afterwards. Later, she admits to herself that she wanted to have sex with Max. The entire incident is bizarre and disturbing for me.
The second sexual encounter takes place between Max’s twin Roche and journalist Lee O’Brien. O’Brien, the local journalist, is looking for a good story. She’s heard about Max’s past, and she wants to uncover the truth. Getting close to one of the brothers is her way of doing this. When she takes a tour of the clinic with Roche, the entire scene is just downright creepy. There is such ambivalence about whether rape occurs. Roche seems intent on having sex with Lee and even becomes rough with her, but she admits she wants it, even though she’s afraid: “Her heart beat painfully but excitement wiped out any reluctance.” There are numerous types of similar quotes throughout the scene, and I just don’t know what to think. I just don’t see this book as “romantic.”
Obviously, I have mixed feelings about the book, and it was one of those reads where I’m ambivalent about whether I liked the book.
If you have read this book, what did you think? If you choose to read it in the future, please leave me a comment of your take on the story.
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