Madison Westin has recently gone through a divorce and is now mourning the death of her aunt, who has left Madison most of her estate in Tarpon Cove, part of the Florida Keys. Madison moves into her aunt's old house and plans to take up management of a commercial property called The Cottages which her aunt owned. However, not everything is fine in paradise, and Madison has to contest with a shady lawyer, shady manager, interfering relatives, and a guy by the name of Zach who shows up with a gunshot wound in her backyard.
Madison was absolutely infuriating as a main character and narrator. She's a complete moron. I wanted to slap her for the entire length of the book. Let's examine a few things that Madison does that no sane person would. She does not hire her own attorney to handle the shady attorney and property manager who insist they were hired by her deceased aunt, even though she suspects from the beginning that they're lying and up to something. She lets a guy with a gunshot wound, who she's literally just met, stay in her house for days because he says he knows her aunt. How does she know this guy is telling the truth? And then she gets involved with him physically. Okay, he's hot, whatever, go ahead and get your physical pleasure, but what about the fact that he's apparently a criminal of some variety? Madison, you don't know what you might be getting mixed up in! She then lets this stranger's even stranger brother stay with her, even though Zach openly admits he's a criminal. She then agrees to house a just-released convict for several months. She gets involved with a ton of people who she knows are criminals, and when something goes wrong, guess what? She's completely blindsided by it. Because who would ever think that something could go wrong with a setup like that?
There's no real mystery in this book. I think it was supposed to be one, but it's not. There's a murder, but it doesn't show up until well into the book and even then Madison isn't any sort of mystery-solver. There are no twists, no turns; everyone who seems skeevy actually is. You can see the ending from a mile away. No one is anything except what they seem. And honestly, for what's supposed to be a mystery or suspense novel, we spend an awful lot of time hearing about what Madison is wearing. Oh, and the "big reveal" comes from a character who Madison speaks to on the phone, once, and is not otherwise involved with the story at all. Why? What's the purpose? To fill a narrative gap? That should have been thought out first and tied in. Mysteries can't have sprawling casts of characters because it makes no sense for them to have those sprawling casts. Rather, they should have small- to medium-sized groups, and you should constantly be forced to question the truth and motives of everyone except the narrator--whose motives and involvement should be questioned by everyone else involved.
The writing is fairly sub-par, too. Brown has no conception of how to properly use quotation marks in regards to dialogue. The dialogue itself is sloppy and stilted, not natural at all, and is extremely formal even between characters who supposedly know each other very well, such as Madison and her mother and brother. Oh, and did I mention that everyone around her endorses Madison's poor decisions? They work out, of course, because why would there ever be consequences for poor-decision making? There were so many cool ways this story could have gone, but Brown didn't take any of them. A much easier, neater route with a good potential for real mystery and romance would have had Madison unwittingly getting pulled into Zach's business busting a ring of thieves; it would have brought about natural interaction between the two, and she would have had a chance to organically grow and meet the other characters in the book. But that's not what happened. Instead, Brown went with a plot that was completely contrived and unbelievable.
1 star out of 5.