Touch of Smoke by Karissa Laurel
Read: 11th – 15th April 2019
Publication Date: 12th February 2019
Quote from Touch of Smoke
“I’d sworn I would never return to Evansville and its misty gray mountains. Those insidious valleys and hollows attracted secrets, holding them I confidence until they festered and infected everyone and everything, breaking hearts and ruining lives.”
My Overall Rating: 2/5
Plot: 3/5 – Flow: 2/5 – Character Development: 1/5 – World Building: 4/5
Touch of Smoke is a standalone paranormal romance novel (approx. 299 pages) about a young woman (23yrs old) who returns to her home town of Evansville in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. It is a modern tale that would happily sit on the YA/New Adult shelf due to the age of our main character and the content of her journey of discovery.
If you’ve read any of my reviews before, you’ll know that I don’t post spoilers of any kind or reveal any plot twists in my book reviews, so here’s what the official blurb has to say about the story:
Three years ago, Rikki Albemarle watched her best friend die at the hands of a supernatural evil. Certain she was slated to be the next victim, Rikki fled her small Smoky Mountain hometown, vowing to never come back. Plagued by nightmares and knowing she’s the only one who believes Mina’s death was no accident, Rikki returns with hopes of finding answers and holding the killer accountable.
Rikki is convinced the key to unlocking the secret of Mina’s death lies with Owen Amir, the alluring young army vet who once claimed her heart. But the deeper Rikki digs into Owen’s past, the more she’s torn between the urgings of her heart and her memories of him on the night Mina died.
After falling further into the rabbit hole, Rikki lands at the feet of an ancient and powerful evil determined to finish what it started years before. To survive, she’ll have to make a decision: believe Owen is the monster she always feared he might be or trust him enough to stay and fight for a second chance at love.
So, before we get into what I thought about this book, I want you to know that I was given a free unedited digital version of this book from (Xpresso Book Tours) after making a request via NetGalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
Karissa Laurel is a new-to-me author and I found her writing style easy to read, intelligent and well crafted. I loved the way she used the first chapter to set the scene; piquing our interest and introducing our heroine, Rikki Albemarle.
I really loved the folklore and mythology that Ms Laurel based her story on; it’s an area of world mythology that doesn’t appear very often in the books that I read and it was a refreshing change.
I think that Ms Laurel’s world building throughout this book was fantastic; the town of Evansville came alive in my imagination, the townsfolk that were introduced to us were well described and we got the chance to get to know them and immerse ourselves in their lives.
I liked the way we were kept taken back to the time leading up to the “incident” that’s in the book’s blurb; Ms Laurel ensures her readers aren’t lost by clearly stating at the start of the chapter whether we’re reading something that happened 3 years ago or now in the present.
As you can tell from my rating, there was a lot that didn’t work for me. I’m not going to list everything, however, I will highlight my main grumbles.
Firstly, I think it took too long to discover the details about the “murder” – at 29% into the book, I’d still not discovered what the “incident” was that Rikki kept referring to; if I hadn’t known about the murder from the blurb, I still would have been completely in the dark. Even knowing about it, we didn’t actually get to the event in question until the 70% mark. I’ve got to be honest and say that reading the blurb, I was expecting a murder thriller type paranormal romance story following Rikki on her dangerous quest to bring the ancient and powerful evil to justice while coming to terms with the supernatural aspect (whatever that turned out to be) of her ex-boyfriend, Owen and rekindling their love through a kickass adventure. This book isn’t like that and, OK, that’s down to my interpretation of the blurb.
However, my biggest gripe was with our heroine, Rikki. I crave leading female characters that are intelligent, resilient, resourceful and have plenty of gumption; Rikki fell very short of the mark for me. I could never understand why she reacted to the “death of her best friend” the way she did and I got very frustrated, with what I perceived as, her modus operandi – to run away. Nobody else in town ran away? In the end, I felt that Rikki, was a bit of a flake or drama queen and although she’s obviously suffering from a mental breakdown because of the way her best friend died, I felt that we were never really shown how it affected her (there is a sentence or town near the end that tells us how bad it got but too little, too late for me) or why she couldn’t cope, what was she thinking? Where was the inner dialogue that would help me to understand?
I don’t usually choose to read New Adult, Young Adult or teen novels because of all the angst, thought processes and actions of this age group; it all frustrates the hell out of me and my blood pressure doesn’t need that kind of stress from my “hobby”.
Touch of Smoke isn’t my cup of tea. I am always reluctant to write reviews for books that I don’t enjoy reading and I must confess that this novel is too YA/New Adult-esque for my tastes; hence my 2 star rating – I thought it was OK, however, it has already received lots of 5 star ratings from happy readers.
So, I hope my review of TOUCH OF SMOKE hasn’t discouraged you to find out more about the book yourself. Just click on any of the links below to check it or to find out more about the author.
(I am part of the Amazon Associates program which means if you use the Amazons link above to buy a copy of this book, I will get a (very) small % from the sale.)
See TOUCH OF SMOKE on Goodreads.com