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.