The first in Kaye’s Bad Boys of Red Hook series, Back to You has a small town feel but is set in a big city – the area of Red Hook in Brooklyn, New York. I liked the setting – it was a nice change from “big city bad, small town good.”
Storm Decker (yes, his name is really Storm) was fostered by Pete, a former cop, who took in two other boys, Logan and Slater (I expect their books are next). He was also a surrogate father to Breanna Collins, the daughter of his partner who was killed in the line of duty. Bree (Storm calls her Breezy, which was kind of cute actually) manages The Crows Next, a bar owned by Pete. After Pete has a heart attack and needs bypass surgery, Bree contacts Logan for help and, as he is unavailable, he calls Storm.
Storm has been living in Auckland, New Zealand for the past few years. After leaving home to join the Merchant Marines, he is now a marine architect designing luxury yachts and racing boats. Storm had a troubled childhood and couldn’t get out of Red Hook quickly enough. When he started to become intimate with the then 17-year-old Bree, he ran rather than be trapped in the town by his feelings for her. Bree still feels a lot of hurt and much of the book deals with the couple sorting out their past hurt feelings. Pete has recently taken in 10-year-old Nikki and there is a mysterious subplot regarding her parentage which goes nowhere.
The setup sounded like a lot of fun, but I found it difficult to enjoy. The narrative took turns which seemed illogical and I felt authorial plot manipulation was the cause rather than anything organic. Bree and Storm blow hot and cold (heh, geddit?) but the push/pull was more annoying to me than entertaining. The villain (he was a tepid sort of fellow) was named Daniel Knickerbocker (Really? Storm? Knickerbocker?) but at least he didn’t turn into a serial killer or anything.
Back to You’s ending had me rolling my eyes so much I thought I was going to do myself an injury. There was also an unfortunate sentencing choice mid-book which I was surprised got passed the editor. “She was getting used to being licked awake by man and dog.” I know it wasn’t intended to come across this way, but… ew.
In terms of the narration, Emily Durante was probably the reason I was able to keep going. I did enjoy parts of the book, particularly those surrounding the revitalization of Red Hook and Storm’s marine architecture. However, Bree sounded whiny a lot of the time (both in terms of text and narration) but I don’t think I was supposed to feel that way about her. Storm is described in the text as having a combination Brooklyn/New Zealand accent but it sounded to me more like a Boston or Maine accent – by the end of the book his accent had settled to one straight from Brooklyn (which was easier on my ear).
There is a brief section near the end where a New Zealand accent is called for. Let me say that Ms. Durante’s attempt was funny, but again, I don’t think I was intended to feel that way. It sounded like a cross between a Cockney/Brooklyn accent and, after a couple of sentences, developed an Irish lilt. Thank goodness there wasn’t a lot of his character because my ears could not have taken it.
Speaking of New Zealand, I enjoyed the information about the yacht business there and the NZ$/exchange rate which made it sensible for Storm to be based in Auckland. But there are no dingoes or crocodiles in New Zealand and sayings referencing them are as Australian as the animals themselves. Even though they are close together, New Zealand is most definitely a separate country.
In the end, Back to You was just okay for me.