Erik Mitchell spent years uncovering art fraud and investigating thefts before nearly dying on a case gone bad. When he returned home early from the assignment, he found his boyfriend in bed with another man. Erik has decided it is time to get a fresh start, so he buys an antique shop in the beach town of Cape May, NJ. Erik grew up coming to Cape May and the shop seems like a perfect fit for his skills.
Ben Nolan is also looking for a fresh start. Burned out after years as an undercover cop and then a private investigator, Ben is ready to try something new. His aunt is looking for someone to manage her beach rental business in Cape May and Ben has agreed to manage it for the summer as a trial run. If things go well, he is considering taking over the business and settling in town full time.
When Ben finds an antique clock hidden in one of the rental properties, he takes it to Erik to find out more about it. That is just the first step in what turns out to be a larger mystery involving murders, a historic hotel, and ghosts who are looking for justice. Along the way, Erik and Ben find themselves growing closer, and ultimately falling for one another. But the further they dig into the mystery, the more dangerous things are getting. Someone doesn’t want their secrets exposed, and they are willing to do anything — even commit murder — to keep Erik and Ben off their trail.
Treasure Trail is the first book in Morgan Brice’s new series and it is off to a great start. This first book introduces us not only to Ben and Erik, but also to the unique town of Cape May and a host of interesting side characters. Brice always does such a wonderful job in her books of making the setting such a key part of the story, and this book is no exception. I could totally feel the atmosphere and picture details of Cape May that really made it come alive. The mystery slowly unfolds as Ben and Erik dig more into the story behind the clock, the cursed hotel, and the various murders that took place years ago. But the more they dig, they more they realize that all of the mystery isn’t in the past and there are dangers everywhere. The story is clever and kept me engaged throughout as these guys try to discover what really happened all those years ago and to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.
Ben and Erik have kind of a meet cute and things move forward between them pretty quickly. I’m not going to say it’s instalove, but they fall pretty fast and within about a week things are pretty serious. Despite being aware of the quick timeline, things felt fairly organic to me and I think the guys had a nice connection. I liked the way the men looked out for each other and how they relied on each other as they got deeper into the mystery. Both men have had difficult pasts and they had a way of understanding each other and relating that worked nicely.
My biggest issue here is that I had trouble trouble differentiating these guys for a quite a while. I found myself having to constantly think about which was Ben and which was Erik until pretty far into the book (truth be told, I had to ultimately come up with a memory device to remember who was who). I think this is because the men have very similar backstories. Both grew up coming to Cape May with their aunts. Both men worked dangerous, law enforcement type jobs where they nearly died after a case gone bad. They each recently broke up with a jerk of a boyfriend. And each man has just moved to Cape May for a fresh start. So the confusion was sort of distracting as I had to stop and orient myself fairly often to remember each character’s specific story. But as the book continued, things got smoother.
I think there is a lot of potential here for a really great series. I really liked Erik and Ben together and think they make a nice couple. The town of Cape May has a lot of history (and a lot of ghosts) and we meet some really interesting side characters that I think will nicely flesh out the stories. It is clear that the men have already started forming a community of folks who have some supernatural abilities that will likely come in handy in future stories. So I really liked this first book and am looking forward to more in the series.