Claire Lancaster is a highly gifted Psychic, a level 10 parasensitive who can tell when people are telling her the truth- or not telling her the truth. She is highly unusual because most parasensitive lie detectors go crazy from constantly hearing people's lies, and feeling that everyone around them is deceptive in some way. But because of the way she was raised by her mother, Claire has an intriguingly unusual approach to her talent, and rates them on her own scale, right from "white lie" to full-on evil "Ultraviolet".
She is also the illegitimate daughter of Archer Glazebrook, himself a high-level talent, and was raised by her mother knowing who her real father was, but not wanting to break up her father's seemingly perfect family. When she decided to contact her half sister, Elizabeth, six months ago, her sister told her an incredible tale- that her husband, Brad, who seemed so perfect, a golden boy whom everyone loved, was actually evil and planning to kill her. Nobody else believed her, but Claire did.
Unfortunately, when Claire went to confront Brad one night, she walked in on his dead body instead. The cops seemed to think that she was his murderess, but Claire wasn't. She assumed he was killed in a robbery gone wrong. Even though the cops soon dropped their investigation because she was Archer Glazebrook's daughter, the other townsfolk in Stone Canyon generally assumed she did it, including Brad's mother, who was upset that Claire got away with murder. She put out the idea that Claire had been trying to steal Brad away from his wife, having a torrid affair with him, and when he wouldn't leave his wife for her, killed him.
But the fallout for Claire was severe, even though she went home from Stone Canyon and back to her normal life. Somehow, the whispers about her followed her home. Her fiancé left her, and she was fired from her job. And no matter who she tried to get a job with, despite her sterling record as a manager of a charitable group, also turned her down. Now, with her savings nearly gone, she's come to give her father a proposal.
When she shows up, she's completely unexpected, and is met by a business associate of her father, a man known as Jake Salter. Jake, too, is a high-level talent, and like Claire, an exotic. But he generally doesn't let on what he really is because exotic, in the Arcane Society, is often a more polite word for "Freak". Their meeting strikes sparks in both of them, but neither shows it for the moment.
Archer tries to get her to stay with the rest of the family at his ranch, but Claire declines. She doesn't really think of Archer as her father in any but a biological way, and she knows her presence irritates his wife, Myra, because Claire is evidence that Archer cheated on her at least once. Claire is adamant that she is only going to stay a few days, and that she will be staying in one of the hotels near the airport.
Jake convinces her to eat and drink something, but their conversation is interrupted by Valerie Shipley, Brad's mother, who definitely blames Claire for killing Brad. She's turned to drink since her wonderful (to her) son was killed, and when she sees Clare being accepted by the others, throws her drink in Claire's face and ends up pushing her into the pool. Claire refuses to get angry, saying that Valerie has a right to be angry. Even though she didn't kill Brad, she was seeking to discredit him, and her actions may have led to Brad's death.
But when Jake takes her to her car so she can drive back to her hotel after her soaking (Valerie is escorted away by her husband), she finds that Valerie has left her another present- her car's front windshield has been smashed with a rock. Jake then drives her to her hotel, where he discovers that she's lied about where she's staying, a little run-down motel that's only a step or two up from a no-tell motel. He tries to convince her to stay somewhere else, but literally, this is all she can afford, after losing her job and not finding a new one in six months time. The savings she'd built up to open her own firm are now going to support her, and she's fast running out of money.
At the hotel, she and Jake give into their sudden passion for each other with a kiss, but are interrupted by the man from the front desk- a midwestern couple who saw her letting Jake into her room think that she is a prostitute. She and Jake part, but she will have to return to the house in the morning to pick up her damaged rental. Jake tells her he will pick her up, but she refuses to let herself be commanded by him- she'll do it herself.
The next day, her half-sister Elizabeth shows up to drive her, and take her to a spa to relax. Claire is relaxing in a jacuzzi in a jungle room when someone attempts to stave her head in with a dumbell. Luckily, Claire escapes injury and gives chase to her attacker, only to lose her when Claire stops to put on a robe to cover her naked body before leaving the room. Strangely, though, the manager of the spa refuses to believe Claire when Claire tells her what happened. Claire has her suspicions that Valerie was her attacker once again, and follows her to her home, where she sees Valerie's car with a white spa towel on the front seat. But when she goes to confront the older woman, she finds her dead, face-down in her pool.
Once again at the scene of another crime, Claire is looked at even more closely now, and she knows to clear her name, she is going to have to find who really killed not only Valerie, but Brad as well, since Brad's death started everything. And Jake, whose house she is now staying in and who she has become lovers with, insists that she accepts his help. But he's more powerful than he is letting on, and his talent is also something he's not telling others. And his mission is to look into someone who may be manufacturing the Formula developed by the Arcane Society- something which awakens tremendous power in the user, but also leads to insanity and maybe even death.
But does the one case have something to do with the other, and can Claire clear her name and get back a life she nearly lost by being involved in Brad Shipley's murder. But with so many people covering up for each other and trying to get the investigation quashed because they think someone they love and honor is to blame for the murders, can Claire and Jake untangle the twisted web and find who is really behind it all? Or will Claire be imprisoned for a crime she didn't commit? Just because you can detect lies doesn't mean you can see people's motives for lying, or for muddying the waters. Can Claire finally connect with her father in a way more than acknowledging him as her biological parent? Or will her father be the one to blame?
I don't usually get into modern day romances. Oh, give me a historical and I'm all over it like white on rice, but modern day romances, unless they are urban fantasy or involve some kind of supernatural creature, just don't do it for me. That's why I was so surprised to find myself liking this series. Okay, I guess you can say that someone with psychic powers (which is really kind of what all these talents are) could be seen as another kind of supernatural creature, but I d still didn't think that would win me over- witness my reaction to Nora Roberts' Morrigan's Cross series.
But Amanda Quick writes extremely well, and I found myself getting into the series even though it was set in the modern day. Admittedly, this may be because it's a continuation of another of her series I enjoy in her Historicals by Amanda Quick, the Arcane Society, which takes many of the characters from then and brings their descendants in for us to fall in love with snd see fall in love themselves. In this case, we have an insular community- Stone Canyon, who is dominated by the Glazebrook family and their gifts and employees.
The main murder in this volume, involves the very unlikeable character of Valerie Shipley, who blames Claire for her son's murder. We find out, in the course of the novel that it is Valerie who has been systematically destroying Claire's life. She made the call to Claire's Fiancé and told him that Claire had been having an affair with her son, and Valerie who got her fired from her job by making an anonymous call to her employers accusing her of murder. And using the same tale, she's been keeping anyone else from hiring her. She also wants Claire dead more than anything- and tries to kill her twice. This made her so unlikeable to me that I actually was happy when she showed up dead. Finding the killer meant something to me because it would clear Claire's name than just to find who killed Valerie and Brad.
I really enjoyed this book, far more than I thought I would when I first read it. I did try to read the books in order (at least, in the modern day series), as I had already read the Amanda Quick ones. This is a good series, as the Arcane Society actually spans three series now, as well as three of Krentz's pen names, from Amanda Quick to Jayne Ann Krentz to Jayne Castle (The Harmony series, which she has just explicitly tied into the Arcane Society series, and will further with the third book of the upcoming Dreamlight series). I love this series and will continue to read it. Highly recommended.