The Last Breath
Harlequin MIRA, Sep 30 2014, $14.95
In 1994 Rogersville, Tennessee, Ray Andrews is convicted of murdering his second wife Ella Mae. Ray’s family and neighbors react with horror to the crime of passion, but soon the residents of the Appalachian small-town somewhat moved on with their lives; while Ray went to prison and his daughter Gia fled Eastern Tennessee to become a globetrotting humanitarian aid worker at disaster sites.
Sixteen years later, an ailing Ray leaves prison wearing an electronic monitoring device to die in his home. While many including his two other adult children (Lexi and Bo) object to his humane release and some actively protest near the house, Gia returns to Rogersville to help him in his final weeks. However, she also has nagging doubts about her father murdering her stepmother, but her efforts to learn what happened on that fatal night are stonewalled even by Ray and his three-piece suit lawyer relative Uncle Cal. Her only solace is the neighbor Jake the bartender.
The Last Breath is a taut twisting romantic suspense as the truth may not set Gia free. The vivid setting and the support cast (especially the family) enhance the tension. The present day Gia inquiry and the Ella Mae 1994 final days are terrific subplots; while the well-written Jake romance distracts from the otherwise superb family drama.