I really enjoyed the hours spent reading this book. But I don't know if I can really recommend this to anyone. There was so many characters - if you do read this, keep a sheet of paper with every character's name on it, you will be referring to it often.
What I liked:
1. Although there was a lot of male characters, there was distinct differences in mannerisms, tone, voice, etc to define each one. This is especially important, as information is often given through conversations. Once I got to know the many characters, their interactions with each other were natural.
2. The hero (Julian) was the perfect study of an alpha male. He was the reason I kept reading when the book slowed down in pace. He owned the space he was in, but was never overbearing. He was smart and brawny, but the smarts played out over and over again after the first couple of chapters. He was devoted to the cause of finding his twin brother's real killer, but was not so obsessed that it clouded his judgment in the present tense.
3. The heroine (Alyce) was somebody I could root for without Julian. However, she had her TSTL moments (the plot centered on the MCs unraveling a past conspiracy) that seems to be a must for any book that is in anyway suspenseful. But she had heart, a valid, solid motive (she sought to clear her father's name). Pet peeve was in how the author decided to spell her name - it annoyed me for at least half the book.
4. The storyline itself was fine and most of the plot twists enhanced the plot to make it more believable. However, there is a thing as too much of a good thing. The plot twists started to happen one after another really quickly in the last 120 pages of the book. The only speed bumps were for the sexy times; other than that, conversations and action were important in moving the story forward. There was almost no inner bemoaning or overthinking.
5. There were gothic elements to the story that provided some real atmosphere.
What I didn't like:
1. The evil guys were one-dimensional and stereotypical. The good guys seem to get all the author's creativity and talent.
2. Some of the plot twists were not necessary. There seemed to be a law of diminishing returns when you have four plot twists within 20 pages; first one elicits an "wow" reaction, the second one is "sure", the third one was "okay" and the last one was "meh". The story settled for a little longer after that before the next set of loops.
3. Info-dumping was done through conversations and involved a lot of other people. See reference sheet.
The story was first published as Daughter of Deceit by Carrie James Haynes. This was the first book in the series Secret Lives. I look forward to reading the other books in the series.