Hartley Watson is a young widow living in Denver, Colorado. Her husband, Raymond, died in a car accident four years before Blind Date begins and she’s being pushed into getting into the dating pool again by her BFF, Taylor.
Blind Date has a creepy beginning. Joe Arden narrates the prologue from the POV of the serial killer. He does a good job of it because the serial killer is indeed creeptastic.
Taylor gets Hartley to agree to go on three blind dates. Conveniently, Taylor has set up a profile for Hartley on the singles website “Blind Date” and has narrowed the choices down already.
Hartley’s first two dates are… not great. Greg is way older than advertised and nowhere near as good-looking. Richard is not over his ex. The third try however, may be the charm. Jacob is a handsome and kind interior designer. Even though Hartley is not convinced she is ready, she cautiously starts kinda-sorta dating Jacob.
Next door to Hartley lives Detective Ace Henderson (Ace’s actual name is never specified. Maybe it actually is Ace?). He is repeatedly described as “broody” but very good-looking in a dangerous, passionate kind of way. Hartley doesn’t mind looking at him but she does not like him.
Speaking of which, I found Hartley hard to like at times. She gets very mouthy with Ace and with other people in the book. This was somewhat inconsistent to the way she deals with Jacob when he steps out of line however. To him she is deferential. I think the byplay between Ace and Hartley was supposed to be more in the “snappy banter” vein but it crossed the line into mean or rude for me and mostly the mean or rude was Hartley (although she is always telling Ace he is the rude one of the pair).
Hartley gets freaked out when strange things start happening. A t-shirt her husband used to wear and which she had packed away, suddenly appears on the kitchen table one morning. Another day, a hot cup of coffee with a note from her husband (in her husband’s handwriting no less!) waits for her when she gets up.
The listener knows, as does Hartley, that there is a serial killer in Denver. He stalks women and gaslights them, eventually abducting them, holding them for a period of time and then slashing their throats in a bow-tie pattern (I had a bit of trouble picturing this I must admit) and hanging them from a tree with an actual bow tie around their necks. Obviously, I had the advantage of knowing I was listening to a romantic suspense novel but I was surprised that Hartley took so long to cotton on to what was happening, given she thinks about the serial killer and his methods early in the story.
Notwithstanding the animus between Hartley and Ace, Ace steps up when Hartley needs help and begins investigating the strange events which are terrifying her, linking what’s happening with the Bow Tie Killer. Over the course of the book, Hartley and Ace grow close and eventually begin a romantic relationship. Jacob is very nice but she just doesn’t feel a spark between them and they decide to just be friends. Ultimately, there is just something about Ace which revs her engine.
Some of the plot didn’t hang together very well and there were times when the characters acted in foolish ways that didn’t really make sense. While Ace isn’t on the task force looking into the Bow Tie Killer, but he is investigating to help Hartley, he does “forget” to do some simple investigative work which puts Hartley’s life at risk. And, it was unbelievable to me that the thing Ace forgot hadn’t already been checked out by the detectives on the case. Three women had been killed and the only thing they apparently had in common was the recent death of a loved one. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to think of places where such women might intersect with the killer.
I picked the villain from the start, but there were some moments where I questioned my thinking (mainly because I thought it was too obvious) but the last few chapters were where the story really lost me. There were just too many oddities and foolish choices to be believable for me. The serial killer wants to “break” Hartley and his methods had me scratching my head because they just didn’t make sense.
Most of the book is narrated by Maxine Mitchell. She does a good job. I particularly enjoyed her portrayal of Ace. She gave him a gravelly voice and lots of personality. It was difficult for me to tell how much of my occasional discomfort with Hartley came from the text and how much came from Ms. Mitchell’s portrayal of her. In the end, I decided that while Ms. Mitchell is a good narrator, she and I don’t gel all that well together. It’s more a matter of personal taste than any particular thing I can criticise. She sounded a bit shrill occasionally in a way that felt unpleasant to my ear but I think many other listeners will be fine with her performance. There was a lot of melodrama in Hartley’s character but again, how much of that was the performance and how much was the text is difficult to say.
There was only the prologue from the serial killer’s POV. Joe Arden narrates another two or three chapters late in the book, from Ace’s perspective. I have listened to and enjoyed Mr. Arden’s narration before so I was surprised at how much these later chapters did not work for me. Mr. Arden seemed to forget the existence of full stops and narrated in a run-on sentence and at too fast a pace. It may be that it was a deliberate choice to denote the tension and suspense of the situation but it did not succeed on any level for me. Somewhat surprisingly, I preferred Ms. Mitchell’s depiction of Ace to Mr. Arden’s. To be fair, some of my reaction to Mr. Arden’s performance may also be a reaction to the not-Ace detective work being spoken of at the time.
TITLE: Blind Date
AUTHOR: Bella Jewel
NARRATED BY: Maxine Mitchell and Joe Arden
GENRE: Romantic Suspense
STEAM FACTOR: Glad I had my earbuds in
REVIEWER: KaetrinBuy Blind Date by Bella Jewel on Amazon