Review of Beguiled
Beguiled is a collab novel co-written by two very different authors: J. Mark Bertrand is a crime novelist, while Deeanne Gist is known for her inspirational historical romances. I found out about this book because I am a fan of Deeanne Gist’s, having picked up a book of hers in an Amish grocery store in my and Stuart’s home county of Lancaster, PA. The union of these two authors is a strange one, but ultimately successful.
Beguiled centers on a dogwalker working in Charleston’s wealthiest neighborhood. Though Rylee has never had problems at her jobs before, suddenly a thief begins to break into houses in the neighborhood- and most of them are her clients’ residences. While Rylee is innocent and sure she’s being targeted, the police and reporter Logan Woods aren’t so sure. Caught in the middle of using the story as fiction inspiration and as part of his job, Logan gets closer to having to make some big decisions as the case becomes more serious: choosing between the job he wants and the job that pays, and choosing between what the evidence says and the girl it points toward.
I wasn’t sure what this novel would be. In fact, though I purchased it as a fan of Gist’s, the book sat on my shelf for a good two years before I actually read it. After all, I’d never read any of Bertrand’s work, and everything I’d read of Gist’s was historical. What was I doing with this contemporary crime book? But the novel was a pleasant surprise. Though I can pick out Gist’s style here and there (which is a good thing), the writing blends the two styles very well. Never did I become distracted by oddly sewn-together paragraphs or a character speaking differently depending on the chapter. Had I not known it was a collab novel, I never would have guessed.
The story, too, is compelling. Though it’s marketed as a “romantic suspense” novel, it’s not really. Yes, Rylee has a crush on a supporting character and Logan develops one on Rylee, by page 150, there hasn’t even been a kiss, let alone anything that would push this book into the romance section. And it’s perfectly fine; the pacing of the novel lends itself to such a set-up. The characters are very well-developed, their backstories revealed with perfect timing.
One very small thing that I took issue with was Rylee’s name. I know I am not alone in hating when authors give their characters super trendy names. How many Blairs and Addisons and Rydens can there be in one book? And while Rylee (Riley/Ryleigh/whatever) is more of a weird spelling of a more common name, it still stuck out glaringly. Worse, Logan even mocks how strange the name is multiple times… but then no explanation comes as to why she is named thus.
As mentioned, the book itself is very well-paced, taking its time to reveal the perpetrator and leading up to exciting action scenes. Though the book isn’t laden with them, I think the three or so that exist are good enough; perhaps someone who reads more suspense novels would think otherwise. I was really pleased with how well this collab novel read, and I kind of hope these two authors will work together again!
He was close enough to touch her with his voice.