(KaliOka Press July 2018)/ 230 pages
5 Stars/ Recommended Read
Category: Cozy; contemporary romantic mystery
Reviewed by Claire Hamner Matturro
Historical romance author Susan Y. Tanner takes a different path in her most recent book, Turning for Trouble (Familiar Legacy Book 7). Oh, there’s romance for sure, but there’s as much suspense, danger, and mystery as love at play. Plus, there’s a savvy, sophisticated detective named Trouble, who channels Sherlock Holmes and has plenty of attitude. The catch—Trouble is a feline, a black cat to be precise. He is the son of Familiar, the black cat detective created by award-winning, best-selling author Carolyn Haines.
In Turning for Trouble, Tanner comes back for her second book in the charming Familiar Legacy series. Just as in her first contribution to the series, Trouble in Summer Valley, Tanner has a winner with her newest Turning for Trouble.
In Turning for Trouble, the romantic suspense starts quickly. At a ranch wedding, Cade Delaney, the new Director of Operations for the Twin Circuit Rodeos and a man whose height gives him an advantage, turns just as another guest—a woman—steps forward, brushing against him. He rests his hands protectively upon her as they stumble into each other. At once, he recognizes her as Malone Summers, the one great love of Cade’s life, but a relationship that failed them both. Tanner captures the poignancy of the moment with sensual, lyrical prose: “He saw not the woman she’d become but the girl she had been. …And he let her go, once again, because that was what she wanted.”
Malone, a spirited woman barrel racer, leaves the ranch the morning after the wedding in a hurried attempt to avoid further contact with Cade. Unknown to her, a teen girl hides away in the rig, along with Malone’s horse, Jaz. Trouble, the black cat detective, sees the girl hop into the rig, and jumps in after her to protect Malone. But to his—and the girl’s dismay—the hatch slams shut, trapping both Trouble and the girl.
Two hours later, Malone pulls her truck and trailer into the yard at her late grandparent’s farm. There, she finds not one, but two surprises in her rig: the black cat she soon recognizes as Trouble, a cat she met at the wedding, and a frightened young girl named Joss. Against her better judgment, Malone invites the girl to stay with her. The bruises on Joss—and her look of fear—forewarn Malone of danger, but she can’t turn the girl out. A threatening phone call only raises the stakes.
Something evil is happening, and brave and resourceful though Malone is, she needs help. Enter Trouble, with his superior cat intellect, sassy outlook, and crime solving skills. But don’t overlook Cade, the cowboy who once broke Malone’s heart, and his role in the adventure. Once he hears about the first hint of danger to Malone, he races after her to help.
And young Joss, who confesses having stowed away on Malone’s rig since a rodeo in Louisiana, is more deeply involved than either she will admit or that Malone, Trouble, and Cade can understand. They all know the girl is “running way from something very mean and ugly.” But what?
The plot, the characters, the romantic suspense, and the air of realism make this book shine. Trouble’s charming, erudite voice and his strong role in the action also make for a riveting tale in which Tanner takes on a tough topic—human trafficking—and does a heart-rendering job with it.
Animal lovers will find much to champion in the book. First and most obviously, there’s Trouble. Cade’s dog and Malone’s horse also add much to the story. Tanner brings her own knowledge of horses into both of her Trouble books, giving each a warm and accurate you-are-there feel to them. With her expertise in training horses, Tanner adds details that make the rodeo setting in Turning ring with authenticity.
Suspenseful and great fun, Turning for Trouble is a grand new addition to the Familiar Legacy. The series currently has seven books by different authors. While all books share Trouble, the black cat detective, the setting, style and plot are all the creation of the individual author. And in the interest of full disclosure, this reviewer wrote one of the earlier books in the series.
About the reviewer: Claire Hamner Matturro, a Romantic Times award winner, has been a journalist in Alabama, a lawyer in Florida, an organic blueberry farmer in Georgia, and taught at Florida State University and University of Oregon. Her books include Skinny-Dipping (a BookSense pick, Romantic Times’ Best First Mystery) and Sweetheart Deal (winner of Romantic Times’ Award for Most Humorous Mystery), published by William Morrow, and Trouble in Tallahassee (KaliOka Press 2017) She reviews for Southern Literary Review and Compulsive Reader. “Like” and “follow” her at https://www.bookbub.com/profile/claire-matturro and https://www.facebook.com/authorclairematturro/