Scarred by Kendal Corbitt

The Face Of Desire
Scarred by Kendal Corbitt
Publisher: Red Rose Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (157 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Everyone says Nicole is a survivor, but she doesn’t feel like one. The jagged scar across her chest is a bitter reminder of the disease she overcame, and the life she lost because of it. Now, on six months into remission, she’s spending a week at a secluded resort for a family wedding. Nicole has to put her anger aside and fool her family into thinking everything is fine.

Jake has his own scars. After he is left marred by a deadly fire that killed his fiancé, he now lives a recluse life as the handyman at Eden’s Escape. Jake only wants to keep being invisible but from the minute Nicole gets to the resort, he has to save the reckless woman from herself and the risk that she carelessly seeks out.

Nicole wants to spend the week living without regrets and is determined to feel something besides the anger that has consumed her through a brutal battle she never wanted to survive. She can’t deny the attraction to the man with a dark past. Together, Jake and Nicole discover that hiding scars is easier than healing them.

Heading to an island retreat for a family member’s wedding, Nicole Seville’s phone runs out of battery at possibly the worst time ever. Stuck in a bus shelter, in the rain, in the middle of nowhere wasn’t her choice of ways to celebrate her six month anniversary for being in remission from cancer. When her lift finally arrives Nicole isn’t thrilled when Jake’s mere presence at the small Crab Bar almost starts a fight. That, coupled with his forbidding attitude and scarred face, has her wondering what the heck she’s let herself in for.

I was greatly intrigued by the set-up of this story. While Jake is the one externally scarred, Nicole also has plenty of emotional and inner scars herself. Having survived cancer (or being in remission, she admits one never “survives” cancer) and trying her best to convince everyone around her – her family in particular – that everything is fine and dandy, she’s a complex woman with a number of problems on her plate. I also found myself drawn into Jake’s dark, broody nature. While from the outset it’s clear he’s survived a nasty fire that killed a woman special to him, it’s also just as crystal clear there’s far more to that story than the mere “coward” tag the rest of the town seems to have branded him with.

Almost immediately I wanted to dig deeper into the mystery and find out what was beneath both their surfaces. Initially I was frustrated because Nicole was so submerged in her own issues it didn’t even cross her mind to open her eyes and discover the story behind Jake. One can’t blame her, with family to placate and a wedding to attend, as well as being set up with various cousins of cousins, Nicole does have a lot going on. I found Jake far and away the most interesting character – aside from Nicole herself – and I was glad when they started spending time together. As Nicole and Jake got to know each other better both of their complex personalities shine and their compatibility becomes both more understandable and clear.

This wasn’t an average romance story. The opening few chapters were filled with tension and had a multi-layered mystery feel of “it was a dark and stormy night”. Both Jake and Nicole – initially at least – are abrasive, intriguing characters. Neither are from the classic, “traditional” hero or heroine mold. While the strength (and sometimes rough temperament) of these two won’t suit everyone, I really enjoyed how the author presented both Nicole and Jake and made me want to know more about them. The clever writing and subtle clues led me to believe there was so much more happening than a first glance would show kept me turning the pages.

Much of the mystery initially presented became background noise as Nicole and Jake got to know each other in the middle of the book, but the author does subtly drop hints and teases of why Jake’s hung around, what really happened the night he got his scars and how Jake and Nicole could well be the perfect tonic for each other. I found this to be a complex and intriguing romantic mystery novel. The characters are well drawn and while the mystery lags a little in the middle, I found overall the pace moved swiftly and kept me interested. Recommended.

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