Verdict: Leslie Tentler’s BEFORE THE STORM successfully performs a balancing act between romance and suspense and builds momentum to a satisfying, if unsurprising, conclusion.
Leslie Tentler’s thriller-romance BEFORE THE STORM tilts from dark to light, finding extremes along the way; both of her protagonists are trapped within their devastating pasts, yet find solace in each other, no matter how much they may resist initially. This resistance, however, creates a slow-burning romance, one which feels realer and more rewarding than a faster courtship would have been. Careful build-up is the novel’s strength, from the secrets it gradually reveals to the core relationship it earns.
The novel is primarily focused on Samantha Marsh, formerly Trina Grissom, a woman on the run from her past with an abusive criminal. Under her new name, she moves to an idyllic seaside town to open a café. There, she meets Mark St. Clair, a wealthy widower unable to overcome his grief and struggling to raise his young daughter. They are promptly drawn to each other, but Samantha keeps him at arm’s length, both fearful of revealing herself and paranoid about relationships in general. The stakes are heightened when lecherous characters looming in her past track her down, seeking out vengeance and repayment and threatening to disrupt the new life she’s built. Mark, for his part, grapples with his overbearing family, his own stagnation after his beloved wife’s death, and his developing interest in Samantha. What best endears Mark is his genuine empathy for Samantha and desire to help her, and what best endears their romance is the constant pull Samantha feels toward him specifically because of that empathy, which is the critical difference between Mark and the men in her past who have used her. The reader can understand why Samantha pushes him away as easily as they can understand why she finally lets him in.
BEFORE THE STORM delivers on its promises, devoting equal attention to its twists and turns as it does to its central romance, and concludes in a satisfying manner with the past put to bed and the future bright on the horizon. However, it is not without its flaws, the primary of these being its reliance on a standard formula; its basic plot arc is hardly original, and its prose can be melodramatic. But it holds together well, and the climactic final confrontation amid a hurricane is well-executed and exciting. Romance fans will find what they’re looking for here.
~Magdalene Wrobleski for IndieReader