Scandal at Copper Lake by Marilyn Pappano

This is my first crack at Silhouette Romantic Suspense and it did not disappoint. Normally I stick to Intrigues and Nocturnes, but the gorgeous cover and characters caught my eye and I had to check this one out.

I like to pay attention to first chapters particularly in how the author sets up the conflict and characters for the rest of the story. This one was done beautifully as we got to know the backstory toward hints of the scandal of the title and how it ties in with the hero and heroine. HQN doesn't do many interracial books featuring this pairing and they definitely need to especially if there are more written like this one.

The story centers around Anamaria Duquesne who has returned to her home in small town Georgia to learn more about her mother who died when she was younger. Anamaria was brought up with her grandmother and along with a special gift of foresight about people that seems like a curse at times. While researching about her mother and the possible scandal, she meets up with Robbie Calloway, a hard edged attorney who is hired to keep an eye on her. He doesn't believe a lick of Anamaria's powers and is wary of her, but also very attracted to her. Sparks are immediate but Anamaria keeps on her guard knowing how the women in her family are prone to losing their hearts to men. Soon Robbie and Anamaria's attraction grows as they dig deeper into her mother's mystery and Robbie grows protective of her while battling over centuries of his family's teachings to marry a certain woman.

I loved the author's opening notes in her description of the characters. Two people who seem completely different yet deep down are very similar and good for each other. I loved that Anamaria could hold her own against Robbie's gruffness and often he reflected on this himself as he was admiring her as a person. She makes an assortment of lawyer jokes and Robbie's reaction (or lack thereof) made me giggle even more. Both characters are strong not only in mind but in temperament and their stubbornness toward each other. The way the differences in races were handled here was wonderful and at the same time identifiable. The experiences felt real in the tensions an interracial couple would face today and the reactions of the world around our hero and heroine were handled in a believable yet subtle way that still had an impact.

The character's backgrounds were given and although they did come from different cultures and upbringings the themes of wealth, family and professions are explored in how it frames the characters even down to the little descriptions of the houses. One particular scene I liked was prior to Anamaria visiting an old friend of her mothers. While one family was poor and worked in serving the other very wealthy family, the poorer family ended up very rich in the love and compassion shared between each other that was lacking in the more wealthier family.

Robbie, like Anamaria notes, is very much a product of his upbringing and class structure. He's a complex hero who battles with his mind constantly about Anamaria while his body and heart are battling the other way. Normally I would be bugged by his reluctance to be with a woman because of the color of her skin but the way the author handles is more than just a trope. He's been taught a certain way and has grown up being irresponsible, somewhat lazy, headstrong and used to just breezing by in life getting by on his looks, charm and wealth. Not very admirable qualities but the way Robbie is written, it's believable and how he cares for his family and especially Anamaria, it makes him sympathetic and complex. While he's constantly saying he needs a certain type of woman to fit in with his family and friends (one that he's envisioned most of his life), his heart and body desires Anamaria because of who she is and how she appeals to him, body, mind, heart and soul.

The same thing with Anamaria who comes from a family used to loving and leaving them. She knows what type of man Robbie is and she stands up to him, never asks him for more than she knows he can give although a part of her may want more. She knows his limits and her destiny and continues to stand strong for what she wants and believes in.

The characters felt like humans rather than figures and I like that the author wasn't afraid to dig down deep and explain the differences in cultural upbringing without being heavy handed with it. It really added some nice flavor to the characters and made their inevitable union all the more sweeter.

I was a little skeptical at first about the Duquesne women not marrying and each having a different (unknown) father. I winced at first because it felt a little stereotypical but after the explanation, I felt it was apart of who Anamaria was as she was brought up in this particular family within the world-building based on how they handle their gifts. It was an interesting way of exploring the Duquesne power structure and, interestingly enough, it somewhat mirrored Robbie's background in how he relates to his family.

The suspense is at a minimum and knowing how Silhouette Romantic Suspense usually weighs more toward romance than suspense, the focus is mostly on Anamaria and Robbie's relationship than the overall mystery at hand (and a dash of some small town family drama thrown in). But it worked. I would have loved to have seen more worldbuilding a deeper look into the Duequesne family's history involving their powers and to maybe explain more about their "business arrangements". How it started, how it was passed down, what each family member thought about it. I'm sure the info would be enough for a massive epic family saga which wouldn't be a bad idea. I'd certainly love to read it. But at it's length it's a nice category that fits within the line's guidelines.

Scandal at Copper Lake mixes interracial romance, a little bit of paranormal and mystery for a wonderfully written novel I'm more than happy to add to my keeper shelf. I'll probably be rereading this one again as its going on my keeper shelf. I hope HQN pays attention and bring us IR readers and lovers more well written books with various themes that explore what the lines have to offer.

Scandal at Copper Lake is available in ebook format from the Harlequin site as well as mass market paperback format.