Reviewed by Donna
TITLE: Run For The Roses
SERIES: Circles #1
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Noble
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
BLURB: Wanting to end his pattern of choosing controlling and abusive men, Vladimir ‘Val’ Mihalic figures it’s better to live alone than live in fear. Just when things are settling down—his biggest trouble recently is a Kentucky Derby hopeful that won’t load into a starting gate—his best friend Janelle’s violent ex-boyfriend kidnaps her. After she’s seriously injured in a car wreck, Wyatt Harig, Janelle’s estranged father, comes around to tend to his daughter. Despite Val’s determination to avoid relationships, Wyatt interests him in ways that make his resolve waver. As complications and repercussions pile on in the aftermath of Janelle’s kidnapping—including a gambling charge and a murder—Wyatt and Val must work together to seek answers. And the closer they get to each other, the more Val wants them to stay that way.
I’m not going to lie. There are things about this story that had me exclaiming “what the!?” out loud and perhaps, a few times, I felt my face scrunch up in disbelief but I have to admit, I loved it regardless. You all know what I’m talking about, those books that have you rolling your eyes and sarcastically muttering “well isn’t that a coincidence” while at the same time you’re enjoying the shit out of it and wouldn’t change a thing. Well, for me, this is one of those books.
Vladimir Mihalic, known to most as Val, lives at Spinning Star Farms where his beloved BFF, Janelle, works training/jockeying racehorses. Val enjoys his life on the fringes of the horse racing world and has no idea that it’s about to land him in the middle of some dangerous goings on. The bungled kidnapping of his best friend is just the beginning but it’s this event that precipitates the arrival of Janelle’s father.
Wyatt Harig has been estranged from his daughter for many years for reasons she is unaware of. However as soon as he’s notified that Janelle has been injured he hastens across the globe and finds himself on Val’s doorstep. The estrangement between father and daughter is obviously only included in the story to account for why Val and Wyatt are only just meeting now despite Val being such an important friend to Janelle. Fair enough. But there is such a complex backstory used to explain it – illness, suicide, it results in a big dump of information that felt to me like a plot twist that doesn’t lead anywhere. It all just seems unnecessarily complicated.
When Val and Wyatt meet the attraction is pretty much instant. I don’t think it is stated just how much of an age difference there is between the two men. Val initially guesses that Wyatt is fiftyish but there’s no actual mention of ages that registered with me (it’s possible that I missed them). I figure there must be at least twenty years between them but it’s never considered an issue by either man. There are actually only one or two mentions of it at all and that’s pretty much just Val appreciating Wyatt’s maturity. While I personally love age gap stories and I would have liked to see it explored further in this book, I realize that many people will probably find it refreshing that all the usual age gap dramas don’t rear their head.
The physical relationship between Val and Wyatt develops in a borderline, to-be-explored-later, BDSM fashion that made me think, why? Again, it seems like an unnecessary twist that draws focus from everything else that is going on. The mystery that forms the basis of the plot is plenty interesting enough.
Back to the mystery, did I mention the most fortuitous twist of all? Wyatt is an investigator who works for Homeland Security. So when Janelle and Val find themselves surrounded by danger and a growing body count, Wyatt is handily there to use his investigative skills to figure out “who done it”.
And now a quick rant. I was so damn proud of Val for being afraid that a killer is targeting him. I thought hallelujah, thank freakin’ Christ, this guy listens and is scared like any sensible person would be. Give the boy a gold star, he deserves to live. But then this happened, “I think I left it in my truck- be back in twenty.” “I’ll meet you at her room?” Wyatt asked. When Val nodded, Wyatt kissed his cheek and squeezed his hand. “Don’t be long.” Suddenly Val pulls the classic TSTL move of wandering off alone into a deserted area and Wyatt provides the kiss of death by saying – don’t be long. Oh dear. I had such high hopes for those two.
The ending is pretty awesome. At first I cursed and thought, no way, there needs to be a couple more paragraphs but then I realized I like it exactly the way is. I had assumed I knew how the story would end and I appreciate that the author chose a different conclusion.
Now in case you feel my sarcasm slipped its leash, which happens more often than it should, let me assure you that this book comes with an Endorsed by Donna sticker slapped on its rump. It truly is worth reading.