Welcome to the release day blitz for The Devil's Daughter by Katee Robert! I'm very excited to be sharing my review of this novel - and an excerpt! Stick around for both, and a giveaway. =)
The Devil's Daughter by Katee Robert
Book One of the Hidden Sins series
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
Growing up in a small town isn’t easy, especially when you’re the daughter of a local cult leader. Ten years ago, Eden Collins left Clear Springs, Montana, and never once looked back. But when the bodies of murdered young women surface, their corpses violated and marked with tattoos worn by her mother’s followers, Eden, now an FBI agent, can’t turn a blind eye. To catch the killer, she’s going to have to return to the fold.
Sheriff Zach Owens isn’t comfortable putting Eden in danger, even if she is an elite agent. And he certainly wasn’t expecting to be so attracted to her. As calm and cool as she appears, he knows this can’t be a happy homecoming. Zach wants to protect her—from her mother, the cult, and the evil that lurks behind its locked gates. But Eden is his only key to the tight-lipped group, and she may just be closer to the killer than either one of them suspects…
What I Liked:
Katee Robert does it again! I'm convinced there is nothing she can't write. I've read most of her steamy, sexy adult romance novels, her dark crime/mafia adult romance novels (O'Mallley's series), and now this series, featuring murders and cults. I knew this wasn't specifically a romance novel (though there is romance in it), which is different from what Robert usually writes. I'm really happy that I loved this story despite the usual heavy-romance expectation being taken out of the story.
Sheriff Zach Owens has a dead body to identify and a missing girl to find, within days of each other. The first instinct would be to point fingers at Elysia, a cult group run by religious fanatic Martha Collins. But with no evidence, he can do little more than ask questions. But things change when Eden Collins, daughter of Martha Collins, shows up in the precinct with a photo of the dead girl's body. Someone sent Eden the photo, and Eden believes whoever sent it is trying to draw her back to Elysia. She vowed she'd never come back, but now she is involved, even if she's not back in Clear Springs on official business, as an FBI agent. Zach doesn't like the idea of involving Eden, for her safety, but he has no other options when it comes to Elysia. Zach and Eden are determined to find the killer, before more girls are taken and killed.
There is such a dark, creepy tone underlying this story, which is probably Robert's intent. I'm assuming that's the case, and I must say, Robert did an excellent job building up the creepy factor. Chills and goosebumps were definitely present as I was reading this book. There is something about cults that has always freaked me out, but add raped and beaten murder victims with ritualistic patterns to the murders, and the creepy factor is significantly upped. Like I said, Robert really did a good job with setting the tone.
The world-building is well-written too. I don't think I've read many novels set in Montana, but here we are, with a story set in Clear Springs, Montana. I've always thought Montana was creepy, but this novel sort of seals the deal. I know this is fiction but I'm assuming there is some sort of authenticity to the setting (mountains, small town, cabins, fishing, three cops total). Robert painted the picture of Clear Springs and Elysia really well. Montana is a very different place from Baltimore, and Robert made this extremely evident.
Of the two, I liked Zach more, but I liked them both. Zach is the white knight in shining armor type. He isn't overly alpha or macho, but he is extremely protective of his town, the citizens, and eventually, Eden. He feels responsible for each murder and any crime in the town. He tries to do the best for everyone, and often takes care of himself last. He has the makings of a devoted family man, but his job and his dedication to it has him very single. Zach is smart, honest, and protective, but he is also a hardened ex-Marine who is ruthless when it comes to protecting his town.
Eden is the more complex of the two. She wears a lot of emotional armor and puts up walls with everyone. Growing up in Elysia left her extremely scarred, and she has tried to block out a lot of what happened. Coming back and reliving those memories is extremely difficult for her. But she is an FBI agent and a stronger woman than she ever was. She doesn't want Zach's help (as much as she really does need it - him), and she often wants to do things her own way, even if (to me) her actions seem reckless and impulsive.
Like I said, this isn't a romance novel (it's a mystery/suspense novel), but there is romance in the book that isn't at the forefront. Zach and Eden have chemistry between them, and they complement each other well. But with Eden's walls, a relationship between them would be impossible. I was a little frustrated because I wanted more from the romance, but at the same time, I definitely understand why there wasn't more. Still, the progression of the romance is sweet.
Back to creepy! The premise of this book is very intriguing, being a mystery/suspense story about several murders that seem to follow the same patterns. The victims are young with pale skin and dark hair, and they all have tattoos, specific to the Elysian cult. All fingers point to Elysia and Martha Collins, but there is no concrete evidence. Zach and Eden must hunt down every clue and every scrap of knowledge they have. Robert had me going in one direction or another, but it really didn't take me long to hone in on one person - and I turned out to be correct. There was another aspect that I didn't quite aspect. Really, the ending is both surprising and not surprising. Robert crafted an excellent and twisted story, keeping readers guessing until the end.
Overall, I liked the story. It was complex and unique, not just about the murders of several girls and trying to catch the killer before more girls disappear. Eden works through a lot of emotional pain throughout the story. Zach has to deal with the crushing guilt he feels every time someone else is missing, or shows up dead. And the pair share a lot more than a common goal to find the murderer - they grow closer, but Eden doesn't know what to do with her feelings. There are many layers to the story, which all come together in the end.
The ending is good in that it wraps up well (in terms of the murderer and the mystery of it all). I wish there was more concreteness to the romance's ending - it's a HEA, but I think I need an epilogue to be fully satisfied. Still, I liked this book and I can comfortably say that it is one of Robert's best.
What I Did Not Like:
This is nothing against the main aspect of the story (the "murder mystery")! But my complaint would be that I wanted more from the romance, especially at the end. The ending is a nice one, in terms of Zach and Eden, but it's also slightly open-ended. Like I said, I would love an epilogue. I don't really love not knowing how things are going to be concretely resolved and worked out. If that makes sense (hopefully I've been vague enough to avoid spoilers but also specific enough to make sense).
Would I Recommend It:
I recommend this novel if you like murder stories, mystery/suspense novels, or the like. A warning - there is a creepy cult, and mentions of beatings, rape, non-consensual acts. All of these horrible acts happen to the murder victims (and not out protagonists (Zach or Eden). But I thought I'd mention that. This book has a pretty heavy dose of creepy in terms of the cult, but that definitely makes the novel interesting, and it kept me reading. My attention was captured and I could not stop reading until I reached the end!
There is "mature" adult content, in terms of the romance. Another thing to note. Not as steamy as Robert's contemporary romance novels, but definitely explicit enough for adult readers only.
4 stars. This is one of Robert's more complex and thought-provoking novels! It was dark and chilling, but with some warm and hopeful moments (such as the romance). I hope that there will be Zach/Eden cameo appearances in subsequent novels, because I really want to know how they work things out logistically! I'm a facts/logic person, and I must know. I'm excited to read the next story (Vic's)!
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About the Author:
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Katee Robert learned to tell her stories at her grandpa’s knee. She found romance novels at age twelve and it changed her life. When not writing sexy contemporary and speculative fiction romance novels, she spends her time playing imaginary games with her wee ones, driving her husband batty with what-if questions, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.
“This is stupid. Get out of the car. Get out of the car right now.”
She threw her body into motion, half-afraid that if she didn’t force herself to move, she’d sit there until someone decided to report her for being creepy. Who am I kidding? The people in this place are just as likely to knock on the window and ask me if I need any help.
The fall air had a little bite to it, and she closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. Home.
No. It’s not home. It’ll never be home again.
She’d made a life for herself in the FBI, and if she didn’t have much in the way of roots . . . Well, she’d left the possibility of roots behind when she left Clear Springs. Most days it didn’t even bother her that much. She was doing good in the world, using her nontraditional childhood to give her an edge that had helped her make a name for herself over the last six years in the cult division. She was Eden Collins, FBI agent. She wasn’t that scared little girl. Not anymore.
One step at a time, she made her way into the police station. She’d half expected it to be a whirl of motion, with people rushing here and there, trying to come to terms with the fact that death had touched their small town. But there was no one in the room except a man sitting behind the desk in the corner, glaring at the phone on his desk.
The golden boy of Clear Springs in every sense. His blond hair was still cropped short, hearkening back to his days as a marine, and his body was obviously well taken care of. This wasn’t a man who’d let his years working in a sleepy little town turn him soft.
While Zach took her in, she conducted her own perusal. She’d never met him personally, but she knew him by reputation and pieces of information stolen via eavesdropping. He’d gone off to war a boy and come back a man with shadows in his eyes. Or maybe she was just seeing him with rose-tinted glasses, the tragic figure representing everything she’d never have. Acceptance. Loyalty. The love of the people here.
Something like jealousy curled through her stomach. It was silly and childish and she was better than that, but it was hard not to resent someone who so obviously fit. Eden had done a bit of traveling since she’d turned eighteen and run as far and fast as she could from her mother, but she’d never found a place that was well and truly hers.
He caught sight of her and narrowed his eyes. “Can I help you?”
Being pinned in place by those blue eyes made her second-guess the intelligence of her plan yet again. It didn’t matter. He needed her help, even if he didn’t know it yet. She stepped forward. “I’m here about the body.”