You Belong to Me by Karen Rose
published by Headline Book Publishing in January 2011
When forensic pathologist Lucy Trask stumbles across a mutilated body by the chess tables in her local Baltimore park, its face so badly damaged it is unrecognisable, her sole concern is that it might be her old school teacher Mr. Pugh. When the corpse is identified, Lucy is shocked to discover that the victim is actually another man from her past. Who killed him and why his skin is burnt with the number '1' is unclear but it's evident that someone is demanding Lucy's attention. The discovery of a second branded body raises worrying questions: how many more lives may be at risk before the killer's final message is revealed? And can Lucy solve the killer's gruesome puzzle before their thirst for revenge is complete?Genre: Romantic Suspense
The Story: In You Belong to Me, forensic pathologist Lucy Trask discovering a body during her morning jog and mistaking it for Mr. Pugh, her high school teacher and good friend, due to the clothing. Quickly, the police - JD Fitzpatrick and Stevie Mazzetti - figures out that Lucy was meant to find the body and that she is somehow involved into this case. This is only confirmed when the heart is left in her car. How is she involved? Who is the killer? Those are the questions the homicide detectives hope that she will help answering.
JD Fitzpatrick is at a crossroad in his life. He lost his wife a couple of years ago, has just recently changed from Vice to Homicide and has been trying to sell his house for months. He is ready to move on, but is not sure in what direction. When he meets Lucy on the case, JD immediately feels something. They have shared a moment in the past, a connection... and now, attraction. For his future, JD is determined not to let Lucy come to harm, but it is something difficult to accomplish when a killer is after her.
My Opinion: It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Ms Rose... and the love continues :) When I heard that You Belong to Me was coming out in hardcover in the UK 6 months before the US release, I knew right away there was no way I was going to wait. No way. So I did the sensible thing: I pre-ordered the book from Amazon.co.uk LOL, and waited for it to be shipped :) And it was totally worth it!! :)
In You Belong to Me, Ms Rose brings us to Baltimore and introduces us to a new cast of characters. I really like how Ms Rose has different settings and casts of characters and that her books are loosely connected. It definitively gives her room to play, but also keeps everything new and fresh for the readers. There is no sequel baiting feeling and the process/character growth seem more natural as there is no pressure to get their book. At the same time, we get to re-visit and catch glimpse of old characters :) It's really well-balanced and the suspense/police work is what connects all this books rather than relationships.
LOL, but I'm getting side-tracked. The H/H of You Belong to Me are Lucy and JD. By the way, I would have loved to find out what JD stood for! Overall, I liked both characters a lot. Really, you can't help but admire Lucy because she's so strong. I loved her sense of loyalty and it makes sense that she values the people who helped her go through so much. At the same time, she's also a very caring person and that's not easy to be... because it can bring you heartaches, caring for people who do not deserve it, but you can't help it. While reading, Lucy's secrecy about her other life bothered me a bit, because her other passion is nothing to be ashamed of... but then, the more I thought of it, the more I understood why she was doing it. Lucy was definitively a very complex character and very contrasting a the same time. I think it'd be good for her if she could blend her two lives together. I liked JD's character, but I think he could have been developed a tad more, just so I could understand him better. He has a past - being a sniper, losing his best friend, feeling guilty for his wife's death, etc. However, at times, it felt more like a list of things than his own character. I think the main reason I feel this way was because Lucy was really central in You Belong to Me, the whole suspense revolving around her... because of that, we came to learn events that shaped Lucy, made her who she was today. On the other hand, JD's character was very much about the moment, his protectiveness, feelings, attraction to Lucy. I mean, I like that man, he's a great guy, an awesome guy... Who wouldn't crack for a man who buys a little girl a kindergarten's graduation? It's just that I wanted to know him better, understand him a little better.
With romantic suspense novels, the balance between the suspense and romance is pretty crucial... and also very hard to reach. I thought Ms Rose did a great job given the book. Yes, it could have used a little bit more romance, I would have loved more "normal" scenes between Lucy and JD... but at the same time, given the timeline of the book - 2 days - then yes, I'm happy with the romance we got. And it was actually pretty well-written and believable. I loved that Lucy and JD had a connection prior this case and I think that the moment they shared at the morgue, over a little girl's body, is something unforgettable for either of them. They didn't know each other, never really spoke to each other... but that connection made what they had and felt believable :) Plus this time, we got an epilogue that wrapped it up nicely :)
As for the suspense, well it was well done as usual. With such a short timeline, things were happening one after another and that was great for the pacing. The murders, the killer were classic Karen Rose's style which means a complex killer and some gory scenes. The killer was really scary and how he plans thing... Gosh. I really liked how everything came together, was linked. It makes me realize that they are really bad people out there, jerks and people without conscience. Also that everything has two sides, can be good, but can also be bad. Parents, small town, law enforcement... That good intentions can be used for bad purposes... Some really scary stuff when you start thinking about it ^_^;
A reader on Goodreads felt that Ms Rose wasn't bringing anything new with this story and she doesn't. However, I don't think it took away from You Belong to Me. I mean, romantic suspense as a genre is hard to play around with.... especially with Ms Rose's style that focuses on the investigation. As long as she continues the way she is, writing good characters, intense murder investigations and a nice romance, Ms Rose will be the Queen of RS for me and I actually don't want her to change :)
My Grade: A-. Once again, I feel that Ms Rose has delivered :) You Belong to Me was a fast-paced, intense romantic suspense with good and solid characters as well as a nice touch of romance. I hope that she'll return to Baltimore in the future, because I like this cast of characters and they had some interesting dynamics going on :)