Anna M. reviews Snow Falls by Gerri Hill


Gerri Hill’s latest romance, Snow Falls, was published in December 2012 and revisits a setting and characters from an earlier novel (No Strings), although it features a new pair of women: the reclusive heiress Catherine Ryan-Barrett, known as Ryan, and the aspiring novel writer Jennifer Kincaid. Jen becomes stranded in the Colorado mountains on her way to a writer’s workshop, and Ryan comes to her rescue as the yearly avalanche thunders down the mountain–at the cost of her prized solitude, as it means that they will be stranded together in Ryan’s secluded cabin until the roads become passable again in the spring.

Ryan has spent the last 10 years hiding from her family and her family’s fortune after publishing a Pulitzer Prize-winning book. She’s been looking forward to spending the next several months alone, working on her next book. Although she becomes resigned to sharing her space and food with a stranger for six to eight weeks, she isn’t willing to share information about her past with Jen, or reveal that she’s a writer herself. When the relationship between the women settles in to friendship and eventually mutual attraction, Ryan feels that it’s too late to come clean about who she really is, even though she feels closer to Jen than she ever has to anyone.

Homeschooled through high school, Jen was raised by very conservative grandparents, and the idea that Ryan is a lesbian is startling to her at first. But Jen has spent the last several years putting some distance between herself and how she was raised, and her natural curiosity–and the close quarters–lead her into an easy friendship with Ryan. And since Ryan claims to be an editor, she spends some time learning about the craft of writing as well. Soon their closeness erodes the personal space she’s always carefully maintained, even with her boyfriend . . .

When the snow thaws and Jen returns to her job and boyfriend/potential fiancé, Ryan is left to the solitude she once prized, wondering if she and Jen will ever share anything more than a passionate kiss. After weeks of enforced companionship, “getting back to normal” turns out to be very lonely. [spoiler, highlight to read] With the help of Ryan’s friends Reese and Morgan (of No Strings fame), the couple overcomes the barriers between them, including Ryan’s past and Jen’s uncertainty, but not without a nice helping of drama. [end spoiler]

Although I have been getting a little tired of the “discovering I’m a lesbian when I’ve only dated men” trope, it was a solid romance and a nice take on the concept of being snowed in. I did have to overcome my irritation with Ryan for evading the truth about her identity and then missing many subsequent opportunities to rectify that once she got to know Jen. A quick, enjoyable read.

Anna M. reviews Keepers of the Cave by Gerri Hill

Gerri Hill, known for writing romances and “straight” procedural mysteries, dips a toe into paranormal waters with Keepers of the Cave (published July 2012), in which FBI agents Paige Riley and CJ Johnston are sent undercover to a girls’ reform school, situated adjacent to a creepy community of cult-like family members. The community of Hoganville is under suspicion in several cases of missing people dating back over fifty years, but the enclave is populated only by Hogans, most of whom are completely off the grid. To get as close as possible to their suspects, Paige and CJ find themselves feigning newly-bedded lesbian bliss and posing as a gym teacher and a security guard at the nearby all-girls’ school, also connected to the Hogans. Unearthly howls disturb the peace at night, and the Hogans on staff at the school are . . . a bit odd, to say the least. As Paige and CJ struggle with their attraction (and memories of a one-night encounter months ago), trouble in Hoganville escalates. Will they uncover the mystery of the caves before it’s too late?

Hill takes a lot of the mystery out of her mystery early on by alternating chapters from Paige and CJ’s viewpoints with those from the cult leader “Mother Hogan” and Fiona Hogan, a sympathetic figure who teaches at the school and suffers the horrific consequences of interaction with the creature who inhabits the caves. Mother Hogan’s powers are otherworldly, and her relationship with the creature and the flock of Hogans is definitely creepy. The plot suffers a bit from genre confusion–as if it can’t decide whether to fully commit to mystery or romance, and transitions between them are sometimes choppy–but the sexual tension is realistic (even if the circumstances of the plot are somewhat unbelievable) and the “bad guy” perspectives were an interesting twist. However, Hill also throws in viewpoint sections from Paige and CJ’s male partners, as well as another male FBI agent, when the story might have benefited from more streamlined perspectives. Despite this, Keepers of the Cave is a quick and engaging read.

Anna reviews Storms by Gerri Hill

I’ve read almost all of the books Gerri Hill has written. I’ve enjoyed romances like Behind the Pine Curtain and Love Waits and been more skeptical of recent “action-romance” pieces like The Scorpion. Thankfully, Storms (2011) falls more into the mold of the engaging romances I favor, in both good and bad ways.

Carson Cartwright is an heiress who has spent the many years since being exiled from her family’s Montana ranch traveling and having casual sexual encounters. She is very careful not to get too attached to any person or place. When her twin brother, Chase, entreats her to visit their father on his deathbed, she returns home for the first time since her mother’s tragic death–for which she was blamed by her father. The prodigal daughter is not welcomed back with open arms by all of her four brothers or her father, however. She soon discovers that the ranch is failing, and the brothers have grudgingly agreed to hire an attractive consultant, Kerry Elder, to advise them on transforming the property to a lucrative guest ranch.

Carson immediately perks up upon encountering Kerry, even though her brother Cody (all of the siblings have C-names) feels that he has a prior claim and warns Kerry of her woman-stealing ways. Kerry, who considers herself straight, was not above strategically flirting to get a contract, but bristles at Cody’s protective attitude. When the women are left alone together as the brothers participate in the ranch’s cattle drive, sparks begin to fly as storms rage across the prairie landscape.

The chemistry between Carson and Kerry is believable and ably depicted, although I did sigh a bit when I got to the “Kerry isn’t straight, she’s just never been with a woman before!” discussions. The book was comfortably predictable in terms of the romance, employing such tropes as the older housekeeper who secretly roots for Carson and Kerry to get together; the jealous and violent family member; the prodigal child returning; deathbed drama; and violent storms as a metaphor for internal turmoil. However, all of these things are well-worn and recognizable in the way a favorite pair of shoes might be. And I will likely wear this pair again, the next time Hill releases a book.