From the BLURB:
Nine lives go fast...
Legal investigator Sara Townley's not feeling too good about her recent Vegas wedding to a Navy SEAL she barely knows, and her assignment to the case of a missing cat-despite the fur ball's multimillion dollar inheritance-only confirms that her life is in the litter box.
When the Navy man comes home from active service to make good on his vows, and a rendezvous with an informant puts Sara face to face with a dead body, her personal and professional lives suddenly get serious-and she'll need a sharp survival instinct to make it out alive.
This is the first book in Gabriella Herkert’s ‘Animal Instinct Mystery’ series.
There are a slew of cutesy female-sleuth books on the market at the moment – they are officially called ‘cozy’ mysteries.
Most of these series have a particular quirky ‘hook’ to differentiate them. Diana Killain’s ‘Mantra for Murder’ mystery series has a yoga-loving protagonist. Judy McCoy’s ‘Ellie Engleman’ mystery has a heroine whose occupation is a dog walker.
Herkert’s series doesn’t have any particular quirky ‘hook’ except that the protagonist’s sleuthing partner is Connor Maknamara. Connor is a NAVY seal and also happens to be Sara’s husband – who she married in a Las Vegas quickie wedding.
This is a pretty interesting plot. I liked the idea of a murder mystery unfolding in conjunction to sleuthing newlyweds getting to know one another. But Herkert is extremely frustrating because she doesn’t utilize the one unique aspect of her book. Shortly after Sara is assigned to a ‘catnapping’ case her husband turns up on her doorstep. She hasn’t seen Connor in the months since their shotgun wedding, and Sara was under the impression that if she were to ever see him again it would be to sign divorce papers.
This is not the case though. Connor is a handsome Adonis, drool-worthy and bizarrely insistent that he and Sara uphold their martial vows.
Herkert never rehashes the night in Las Vegas that Sara and Connor got hitched. There’s no flashback and the characters rarely refer to their brief courtship. The most they ever say on the matter is thus:
“We did have to get married.”
“We did not. We got married because great sex impaired our better judgment.”
“Speak for yourself. There was nothing impaired about my judgment.”
I leaned back and folded my arms.
“Amazing sex not withstanding” – he smiled slowly – “I knew that if I left it up to you, we’d be old before we got this far.”
“And where exactly are we?”
Herkert’s agent and editor really should have kicked her ass for this glaring oversight.
Sara and Connor’s relationship feels like a giant omission – and the book is poorer for it. I couldn’t even bring myself to care about the murder mystery because I was too disheartened with the lack of information about Sara and Connor and their romance. It’s made worse by the lack of smut. I don’t always want to read sex scenes just because they’re sex scenes – such intimate paragraphs can really heat up the relationship between characters and add depth to their partnership. Where Herkert could have potentially saved the Sara/Connor relationship by at least having them be steamy (if not forthcoming about their past) Herkert shies away from any explicit sex. It’s the cinematic equivalent of cutting to a shot of billowing curtains right when the characters get hot n’ heavy. All in all the relationship felt hollow and underdeveloped.
It really feels like this is half a book because there is no attention paid to character development or Sara and Connor’s evolving relationship.
There’s not even a character journey for Sara. Herkert keeps alluding to Sara’s dark past, mentioning that she has secrets she can’t even share with best friend, Russ – but nothing is ever explicitly mentioned and the tidbits don’t tantalize so much as frustrate.
This was, above all else, an exasperating read. So much is left unsaid – to the point that I wasn’t concentrating on the mystery plot so much as the plot that was missing. The one thing that could differentiate this series from all the others was a protagonist whose ‘Watson’ was a husband she gained in a shot-gun Vegas wedding. But Herkert mentioned nothing about how these two came to find one another, or why they decide to stay together and tough-out their quickie wedding.
Surprisingly enough I do intend to read the second book ‘Doggone’ – but only because the blurb of that book promises to delve into Connor’s family background and hopefully reveal a bit more about him and Sara. I am still hopeful that this storyline will work; I just think ‘Catnapped’ was the worst possible debut for the series.
P.S. - The ‘1’ star I give this book is for the ‘Terminator’ reference Herkert’s made by naming her two leads ‘Sara’ and ‘Connor’ = ‘Sarah Connor’. Get it? Well, I liked it.