Every family has secrets. Some are born of shame and others of past crimes. When Andrew Slade died, his daughters Maria, Holly and Savannah thought only about their loss and wondered about the future of their family ranch. When they go to the reading of the will, they are surprised to discover Andrew has also left them a video. The will states that 4 equal partners, his daughters and Robert “Bud” Tate, his best friend and ranch foreman, will own the ranch. While “Bud” was surprised, the girls are happy to share the ranch since they’ve always considered him “family”.
The video however, contained an unwelcome surprise. Andrew Slade informed his daughters that they were not his natural children, nor each other’s real sister; each one had been given to him to safeguard from danger. Andrew provided each daughter with “their” history as he knows it and charges them with righting the wrongs done and warns them to watch out for danger.
Blood Stains by Sharon Sala is the first book in her new romantic suspense series, Searchers, and is the story of Maria Slade, formerly Mary Blake. Maria discovers that she was given to Andrew to hide at the tender age of 4 years due to having witnessed her prostitute mother’s murder. Maria has no recollection of Sally Blake, and of her past. While distraught at discovering her roots, the woman she was raised to be, smart, courageous and determined, won’t allow anyone to get away with murder. Soon, she finds herself leaving the ranch in Missoula, Montana for Tulsa, Oklahoma determined to solve her mother’s murder. Maria’s preconception of her mother’s “career” is at first a stumbling block, but as she does some research and then contacts the police, she makes discoveries that open her mind and heart to others. Maria discovers that Sally Blake was unable to read or write; she became a prostitute out of necessity. Samuel “Tank” Vincent, her pimp, and a woman named Becky Thurman were her best friends. Both “Tank” and Becky play a pivotal role in helping Maria remember her past and in keeping her alive when the killer makes several attempts to get to her.
Detective Bodie Scott is young, handsome and a bit of a cowboy. He’s good at his job and has enjoyed dating and “playing the field”. When a cold case literally walks in the door, he can’t help but be drawn to Maria, who is the spitting image of her deceased mother. Bodie is an honest man and warns Maria her mother’s case may never be solved but since she’s come forward as a witness, he’s more than willing to work the case as long as his lieutenant approves. With approval, Bodie proceeds to work on the case and this story picks up speed as he discovers the original detective in charge is serving prison time for a multitude of crimes. As both he and Maria delve into her past, the picture that evolves is one something neither expected. Neither is the immediate attraction that builds between them. While they are digging into Maria’s past, the killer-who thought he got away with a crime-becomes aware of their investigation and attempts to block their progress. He’s willing to do whatever it takes, even it if takes another murder or two to remain hidden.
Ms. Sala did an excellent job of keeping the suspense and tension flowing throughout this story. The characters are well written and their dialogue is sharp. While Maria and Bodie don’t want their attraction to interfere with the case, they find themselves turning to each other more and more. A chance friendship that Maria makes when she first arrives in Tulsa also turns out to be pivotal in keeping her safe and in providing Bodie with some clues that help narrow down potential suspects.
The murder is eventually solved and the killer is revealed in a showdown scene that was tense and very well done. Maria proves that she is more than an equal match for Bodie and their future as a couple looks bright. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Blood Ties, which is set to release at the end of May this year.
At the reading of her father's will, Maria Slade receives shocking news—as a four-year-old, she'd witnessed her prostitute mother's murder and been taken into hiding by the well-meaning preacher who'd raised her as his own.
Maria remembers none of that. But now she's determined to flush her mother's killer out of hiding and discover the identity of her birth father. She heads to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she meets Detective Bodie Scott.
Empathizing with this beautiful woman looking to find out who she really is, he opens the decades-old case file. Their investigation leads them down a dangerous path, where no one is what they seem. Where a father does not want to be found. And a murderer has "like mother, like daughter" in mind for Maria.