Jules Coronado has been away from her hometown for almost a decade but when an intruder breaks in to her childhood home, she finds herself coming back. Changes evidently took place in her small town, including her childhood best friend’s younger brother, Kip – now tall, slightly scruffed, all grown up and caught climbing into their garden wall.
Kip Villamor has a mission and despite Jules’ doubts, they team up: going on fieldtrips, tackling unsuspecting men, and trespassing offices to dig up dirt. But Jules has secrets of her own, one that might be exposed – unless she keeps her walls up. But climbing walls are Kip’s forte, remember?
Will her secrets keep her on his side, or will it force her to disappear again?
“I haven’t been here in so long,” I said, my eyes squinting at the glistening water.
“Figured you should stop by before you leave again,” he answered. “Might take you another decade to come back.”
Kip may be two years younger than Jules, but compared to the parade of boyfriend wannabes in Backtrack he is stable and confident, even as he convinces Jules to push aside her reservations and live a more spontaneous life. You could tell from every page that Kip has always admired Jules–even from afar–and it is his devotion to her that draws her out of her shell, in spite of the secrets that could tear them apart once they come to light. It’s no wonder that Jules keeps on putting off her departure from their town; the more time she spends with him, the more she realizes about herself and the decisions that she has to make in her life.
It’s a testament to the author’s skill that the romantic and suspenseful elements are balanced by equally compelling subplots. Jules’ friendship with Regina and Leslie (from Backtrack) is wonderfully portrayed here as a counterbalance to the intrigue that surrounds her return. Then there’s the relationship that Jules has with her own family, who by no means have been affected by her ten-year disappearing act to live in the city and pursue a law degree. These relationships are so integral to Jules’ development as a character that I wish there had been more of these moments to balance out the dark tones of the main plot and build up the mystery behind Jules’ departure. In fact, I found the revelation of what had happened to Jules before she left town to be too abrupt, and the ramifications would have had a greater impact if there had been more room for Jules to think about why she left.
I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you, but I will say that if you’re familiar with the plot for Backtrack, you’ll be able to put the timeline of events for Hazard in perspective. The author ends the story with a “happy for now” ending, but it’s an ending that makes you optimistic about Jules and Kip’s chances of making it as a couple. A great sequel from an author to watch.
Final Grade: B