Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
Kristen Ashley’s newest story, The Girl in the Mist, is reminiscent of her other newest offerings After the Climb, Chasing Serenity, and Taking the Leap. In The Girl in the Mist and After the Climb Ashley offers up an older hero and heroine who find love in their early fifties. In their coupling, Kristen Ashley does what she does best: builds a new character universe guaranteeing lots of great future stories, a worthwhile promise for her rabid fans.
The Girl in the Mist follows Delphine Larue who has recently relocated to a small town in Washington. A former popular sitcom actress and currently a successful author, Delphine has moved because she, along with her former co-stars, is being targeted and stalked by a crazed fan. Former Kristen Ashley characters, Hawk Delgado and Joe Callahan, have worked hard to find a small town to keep her protected. One day, as she settles into her new home, she sees a young girl near the lake where she lives. A few days later, this same girl comes to her door. This girl turns out to be her neighbor, and Delphine feels drawn to a sadness she sees in her. On spending time with Celeste, she realizes that Celeste needs a mother-type in her life and steps into the role. Through Celeste, Delphine meets Cade Bohannan, Celeste’s father and Delphine’s neighbor. She is instantly drawn to him. Over the course of the story, Delphine grows closer to the Bohannan clan which also includes Celeste’s brothers, Jace and Jesse. Very quickly, Cade and Delphine fall deeper into attraction and eventually into love with each other. Yet, while this is happening, murder is afoot in their sleepy town, and Cade has been tasked with trying to solve the murders while keeping Delphine protected from her own stalker. Is their love doomed, or will they find their happily-ever-after?
If you’ve ever read a Kristen Ashley story, you already know the answer to that question. It isn’t a spoiler. After reading The Girl in the Mist, I’ve been pondering why I can’t get enough of her stories. I read roughly a book a day, and there are many where I have no issue with putting them aside. Yet, with The Girl in the Mist and KA’s other stories, I can’t stop reading (or listening to) them. Seriously, I become frantic for each page, eating whole chapters in a single hour. I think it’s because KA goes deep in her storytelling. For example, The Girl in the Mist at a preliminary glance is a romantic suspense. Seemingly, there is a period at the end of that descriptor. Yet, this book is about a single dad having to raise a young girl on his own and his heroine stepping in to help fill that empty space. It’s about women who feel reduced to one identity: mother or wife, and the complications that come with that reduction. It’s about small-town politics with an incumbent sheriff who is too inept to investigate murders in his own town and the consequences of his pride and vanity. It’s about $exual politics and the labels that reduce people’s ways to love. It’s also about a soulmate type of love. There is suspense in this book, and it will keep you on the edge of your seat because, often, KA ties up all of her loose ends in the last 10% of her book. And she definitely does this here.
What KA does well is develop her characters in such a way that they are secrets at the beginning and unraveled slowly throughout the course of her book. Each unraveling gives you a little more about the character but never the whole thing, so you cannot stop reading because you want the whole character. Her pacing is a work of art. She does this time and time again in her stories, and beyond my love for her brand of romance (oftentimes small-town with some suspense, a helping of angst, and a side of humor), she hooks me every single time. I’ve stated this in reviews for Chasing Serenity and Taking the Leap, but most of my 2021 was taken up in reading her booklist. In fact, I was listening to one of her former books while reading A Girl in the Mist. That is how much her stories grab me.
Now, you have to be patient with Ashley’s stories. They are long; she writes lots of words. They have numerous threads that she takes her time in disentangling. She usually, though, has one thread that connects them all beyond the main characters. For The Girl in the Mist, there is a focus on our ability to read each other. In fact, writing is a meta-idea in this story. Whether it’s Cade trying to solve the mystery of the murders or Delphine trying to be the woman in Celeste’s life, the idea of reading is front and center in this story.
If I ever have one criticism of Kristen Ashley’s (I’ve seen this in other reviews for her other books), it’s the tinges of repetition found in her characterizations and storytelling. Just as some authors craft heroes with the same features in all of their books, Ashley carries over similar commonalities in her own. It’s her brand at this point. Additionally, I oftentimes struggle with the number of characters she incorporates into her stories. I love how she connects newer characters with some of the characters in past books, but that aside…there were times in The Girl in the Mist when I had to stop and think about which character she was referencing because there are so many.
That being said, that’s a part of her promise to her readers: options for future stories, specifically in The Misted Pines series. Did I figure out the killer? Not exactly. Let’s say I solved some of it which means there is a twist to this story. Kristen Ashley’s A Girl in the Mist is more of what she does well. Once I started this book, I simply couldn’t stop reading until its very end. By the time I left its Epilogue, however, I was satiated and simply ready for more of this series.
In love and romance,