After the first couple of chapters, I was afraid I'd gotten myself into a sappy bodice-ripper - definitely not my cup of tea. The earmarks were there: Instant falling in love (forever, of course), gazing so deeply into each others' eyeballs that each could see what the other had for dinner and character names somebody must have stayed up all night to come up with (twins Raine and Roane, for instance). But hey, the setting is South Louisiana, so maybe the name game is different in that neck of the woods.
Bailey Browne, a lonely young woman who's prone to dreaming about a white knight who will sweep her off her feet, goes on vacation and finds him in older hunka hunka Logan Abbott. He confesses that his first wife True, (another of those crazy names), disappeared one day and hasn't been heard of since. Relatively unfazed, Bailey agrees to marry Logan (since his first wife hasn't been found, I'm not sure how he managed a second marriage without becoming a bigamist - but then again, this is South Louisiana). At any rate, the couple returns to Logan's expansive horse farm, expecting to settle down and live happily ever after.
Of course, life rarely goes as planned. Early on, Bailey learns that all isn't what it seems in LA-la land, and there's even a rumor that her gorgeous husband may have been involved in his first wife's disappearance as well as in that of other women from the area who have gone missing over the years. At first, Bailey begins to doubt Logan's love for her, flipping between "How can I live with someone who won't reveal his innermost dark secrets to me?" to believing with all her heart that he's being railroaded.
Emotional histrionics aside, it was at this point that the plot really begins to thicken and the book turned into one I had trouble putting down (I read the last few chapters while watching the 40th anniversary of "Saturday Night Live" on TV, just to show how intent I was on finishing it). There are several intriguing characters (a couple of whom have relatively normal names), and the backgrounds of each are fleshed out as part of the race to unearth what really happened to all those missing women. Along the way, Bailey's life is threatened (more than once), there's a lot more horsing around as other bodies pile up.
And, finding out whodunit kept me reading with gusto to the very end. I will say that almost from the beginning I had two characters in mind for that role, and by golly, I was right (well, one of them was) - but really, that only added to my enjoyment of the book. If you like romance mixed with mystery, don't hesitate to give this one a go.
The First Wife by Erica Spindler (St. Martin's Press, February 2015); 352 pp.