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Nat Burns’ Identity (Bella Books) starts with a crash—literally. Liza Hughes has a chance meeting with Shay Raynor when Shay, a newcomer to town, accidentally runs into Liza while jogging. Shay acts like the accident is all Liza’s fault, which leaves Liza scratching her head, but she can’t stop thinking about the beautiful woman with an attitude. The bumps and bruises these two women experience at their first meeting might be a foreshadowing of what life will be like for them going forward.
Kindhearted Liza finds Shay abrasive. Worse yet, Shay is ungrateful when Liza rescues her from a fall into a pond called Dooley’s Folly. It’s a comical interlude that leaves one wondering about Shay and her acerbic personality. Yet, for some reason, destiny means for these two to be thrown together again and again, especially since Liza can’t seem to get the brooding young woman out of her mind. Shay, although she experiences the same draw toward Liza, seems to be frightened of meeting new people, and especially of getting too close to Liza. Shay’s reserve is maddening to Liza and she can’t understand Shay’s reticence in making friends. However, Shay finds it difficult to continually resist and Liza finally draws her into her circle of family and friends.
Set in a small southern town called Maypearl, Shay’s presence there seems curious to those who meet her. She’s very secretive and quickly changes the subject when asked about her past or her reasons for settling in town. A rumor that she bought her house sight unseen only fuels curiosity, but all attempts to find out who she is are thwarted, until Liza asks her sister, who has the means to research Shay’s past, to do so—and the results are astonishing.
In spite of Shay’s cautiousness, a tentative friendship starts to form between Liza and Shay. It doesn’t always go smoothly, but an attraction soon develops. In the midst of letting down her guard, Shay is forced to be even more wary of every noise and shadow. However, in the end, no matter how cautious she is, she still finds her life in danger. Even with Liza’s love and concern, Shay might not be able to be saved, and the support of Shay’s newly adopted community may be of little use when one final threatening ordeal comes to haunt her.
As Liza interacts with Shay, her family, and her friends, the reader is introduced to a group of memorable characters. Some are laughable, some endearing, others are infuriating, but all are fascinating. Liza’s maternal grandmother is a particular delight and Burns’ depiction of Liza’s relationship with her two very different brothers is convincing. Most appealing is Liza’s kindness and patience with Shay as they make tentative gestures toward a relationship in spite of Shay’s concerns.
Animal lovers will appreciate Shay’s history as a dog trainer and dog lover. The experiences Liza and Shay share as they volunteer at the local animal shelter are a refreshing diversion for the reader—and for Shay—a character with a lot on her mind.
The final plot twist of this story is sure to surprise as the truth comes to light. Shay, Liza and their friends are characters to be enjoyed and appreciate. Identity is an entertaining love story with some mystery and thrills thrown in for good measure. In the end, identity is key.
By Nat Burns
Paperback, 9781594932816, 264 pp.