When Conner Sherwood’s cheaply bought car breaks down just a few days into his cross country adventure, he’s quick to bemoan his fate. It doesn’t help that his car has dumped him in the small, seemingly boring town of Midsummer. Then, a chance meeting with the local sheriff leads to a night of an amazing sex, but a brutal blow off as soon as it’s over. For Conner, it just seems like another reason to loathe the little town. But a determined local wants to show him the positive side of Midsummer and Conner finds himself reluctantly agreeing. Doing so leads him into the middle of a murder and back to the attention of his one night hook-up, Sheriff Rocky Green.
Rocky isn’t usually the type to treat his lovers quite so crassly, but Conner has thrown him off balance. He’s attracted to the man in a way that goes beyond the casual hook-ups he’s used to. But Rocky can’t afford to get entangled with a man who’s just passing through, especially when the same man becomes a murder suspect. Conner and Rocky must find the real killer while trying to untangle their feelings for one another. It isn’t the adventure Conner was looking for, but it might just be the one that changes his life.
Stranded is the first in the In Midsummer series, but does have contained story so you can read it as a standalone, I think. I wouldn’t say the same for the other two books though. I enjoyed certain aspects of Stranded, but an annoying secondary character and a sloppy murder mystery took away some of the shine.
Conner and Rocky are a relatively fun couple. They have some hot sex and a lot of misunderstandings, but they work well together and they felt believable. Neither have the depth that I usually like and, as a reader, I would have preferred a more complex evolution of their relationship, but there’s enough to enjoy. Their chemistry is one of Stranded’s strong points.
Normally I enjoy secondary characters, or at the worst, I ignore them. This may be the first time I’ve actively disliked one and did so to such an extent that it actually distracted from the book. Let me say that I think most readers will like Love Fuller. She’s intelligent and devoted and sassy. Unfortunately, I also found her manipulative, aggravating, and something of a minor bully. She pushes Conner into various situations, often without thinking through the ramifications of doing so. She’s the type of person who believes she’s always justified in her actions regardless of the outcome. Love is a huge part of Stranded and I found her actions tended to be the most frustrating and hard to rationalize away.
The overall story to Stranded is built upon a lot of coincidence and contrivance. Too much of both really. At times, it almost felt as the characters (and this particular reader) were being dragged along to force certain story points, rather than allowing a natural profession of events. The murder, more often than not, serves an afterthought and wasn’t particularly clever, which is shame because it felt like a missed opportunity.
Stranded wasn’t a bad read, but the characters and story felt bent and stuffed to fit certain criteria. Had they been allowed to develop in a more realistic fashion, I think Stranded would have been much more enjoyable. That said, Rocky and Conner are a strong couple and I think their story will appeal to a lot of readers.