Cross Her Heart (Bess Taggert Book 1)
March 17th, 2020
Cross Her Heart by Melinda Leigh is action-packed. This first in a series has great characters working together to solve a murder mystery. It is a tale of lies, deceit, abuse, jealousy, guilt, blackmail, and murder along with heartbreak scenes about family.
The main character is Bree Taggert. She has left the town of her birth and rarely goes to visit, even though her sister Erin, her niece and nephew, and brother Adam live there. As a child she had so much tragedy in her life, which included an abusive father, a murder-suicide of her father and mother, and being raised separately from her siblings. Now more than twenty-five years later she is a Philadelphia homicide detective. She gets a frantic voice message from her sister, Erin, and decides to return to her hometown to help. Once there, Bree finds Erin was murdered, with her estranged husband, Justin missing, and now considered a person of interest. She comes to the realization that history is repeating itself with the circumstances of Erin’s death forcing her to face past demons, as it mirrors the nightmares she lived through as a child.
Leigh noted, “Three siblings were in the same situation and they reacted differently. All three children came out wounded. Bree was much older so she has more memories than her siblings. She remembers her life before losing her parents. Her sister Erin is more desperate to be loved and she was not able to function when she was alone. She felt her childhood was stolen where Bree remembers her childhood and does not want any part of it. Adam, who was only a baby, has an emotional disconnect, maybe as a coping mechanism.”
Determined to get to the bottom of the murder Bree realizes that Erin’s body was found by Matt Flynn, a retired investigator and K-9 handler. Drugs were the cause of Justin and Erin’s split after he became addicted to pain medicines. Although Erin kicked him out of the house because of her children, they were still seeing each other and were trying to work things out. Teaming up with Matt Flynn, who was Justin’s old friend, Bree vows to uncover the secrets of her sister’s life and death. The current Chief Deputy Todd Harvey knows that Bree and Matt aren’t going to sit quietly by while his department investigates. He makes a deal with them; he won’t try to stop them, but wants to be kept informed. They team up even though Bree has issues with Matt’s partner, a German Shepherd K-9 dog, after she was bitten as a child.
“I wrote Bree having a tremendous fear of dogs. It will be a long process for her to overcome it, and it will not be easy. I also had a gateway dog in the story that is used to help her overcome her fear. This storyline came to me after I adopted my last dog. Ladybug is a real dog, my actual dog. My Ladybug is the sweetest tempered dog. Some of the other aspects of a non-intimidating dog comes from a collie I had. She was such a good ambassador for my neighbor’s children.”
Although Bree has vulnerabilities she is a determined, strong, smart, and relatable character. She is thrown into the parent role, assuming the responsibility of raising the two children left behind. Her teammate, Matt, is very supportive of her and is also strong, level-headed, and resourceful. He also has his issues, still recovering after he and his dog were shot in a friendly fire incident.
“Bree’s relationship to the children came very quickly. She definitely relates to them having gone through a similar past. She doesn’t want what happened to her and her siblings to happen to Erin’s children. She is very protective over those children, and has vowed to them she will find their mother’s killer. She slowly realizes her life will not be the same as the children become her responsibility.”
The mystery is full of twists and turns that leave the reader on the edge of their seat. With red herrings inserted throughout the plot, readers will be kept guessing who is the true killer until the very last pages. People will enjoy this first in the series and will yearn for the next book that is sure to have another heartbreaking drama, a suspenseful story, and gripping characters.