Imagine waking up in the back of a van after being kidnapped with no idea who you are. No memories. No name. Nothing.
You have a photo with the name “Claire” on it, perhaps the only clue to who you are — your whole identity.
You manage to escape, but you’re more lost than ever.
This is how Finding Claire by Pamela Humphrey opens. You can see why I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know what would happen next.
Ms. Humphrey’s writing is thought-out and easy to read, but her descriptions of the physical surroundings and the emotions stirring inside put the reader right in the scene. As the kidnapped woman desperately picks her way through the forest at night trying to find help, my heart was pumping with adrenaline right there with her. With every stick that snaps underfoot and every rustle of a bush, she and I kept looking over our shoulders, expecting the kidnappers to be right on our heels.
And then a safe haven pops into view — a cozy cabin in the woods with a black cat in the window. She knocks on the door at about 3:00 AM and meets Alex Ramirez, a guy in his thirties who’s got his own demons. A widower for the last couple of years, Alex lost his wife tragically. She was murdered, leaving him with a guilt that eats away his insides for not being able to save her, leaving him a shell. His first inclination is to act as protector to this strange woman who shows up at his door. He gives “Rainy” (his nickname for her, as she can’t yet remember her name) a place to stay.
Luckily for “Rainy,” Alex’s best friend is D.J., a cop. The authorities are quickly notified of “Rainy” and her kidnappers, including two photos that she took with her when she escaped. The one with the name “Claire” on it is an old picture of a mother and a little girl, with “Emma and Claire” written on the back. The new picture is a current one of “Rainy.” The investigation begins while Alex and “Rainy” commence doing their own search online for links to Claire.
“Rainy” soon gets her memory back, and she remembers her name is Kate. She recalls getting kidnapped in the mall parking lot after shopping with her sister, Meg. Meg was knocked out, and once things settle, Kate visits Meg in the hospital. Parts of the puzzle start to fall into place as Kate talks to Meg and her husband, Tom. Kate’s family lives in Denver, and she was just visiting San Antonio (where Meg lives).
It turns out that Kate has a knack for uncovering information on people because she’s into genealogy. I can appreciate this quality, as I am also a genealogy fanatic, having spent most of the summer of 2011 researching my family tree. It’s amazing what you can find online these days in regards to records on people, so Ms. Humphrey’s descriptions of Kate using the Internet for this purpose is realistic. Ms. Humphrey’s love of genealogy shines through in this book, which is nice touch.
While Kate may have her memory back, she remains confused about why she was kidnapped in the first place and what her connection to Claire might be. In addition to fearing for her safety because her kidnappers are still at large, she begins to have romantic feelings for Alex. Unsure of whether he returns the feelings because it’s clear he still loves his late wife, Ellie, Kate holds back. She wants more than a protector, as much as she appreciates Alex for everything he’s done. She stays at his cabin with him for several days, and the tension between them grows as Alex struggles with his blossoming feelings for Kate, torn between loving another woman and the guilt over losing Ellie.
The suspense romance is written in alternating points-of-view. One chapter is from Kate’s point-of-view, and the next is from third person. I have read books like this before, although it’s rarely done. One of the more recent books I read where the POV kept changing from first person between two main characters was the third book in Rebecca Donovan’s Breathing Series, Out of Breath. I found this confusing in Donovan’s case because the first two books were only from one character’s POV, and with switching between two first person POVs, this was a bit much. In Ms. Humphrey’s book, however, it works. While Donovan would switch in the middle of a chapter, Ms. Humphrey sticks to whole chapters written in one point-of-view or the other. There was never any confusion. I found the insight into Kate’s mind important, knowing her fears, her reservations, her lapses in memory, her feelings for Alex, etc. Knowing less about how Alex feels about Kate keeps the tension building, although it’s clear as the book moves along that he sees Kate as more than just a friend.
To say much more about the plot would give away too much, and I don’t want to spoil the book. Let me just say that Ms. Humphrey doesn’t disappoint. The same quality of needing to know what happens next that hooked me in the beginning continued through the whole novel and didn’t die for a second. There is more to the kidnapping than you would imagine.
One final nice touch of this story is the letters written to Claire every year on her birthday by her mom and dad. Claire was taken from her parents before she turned three years old. You can feel the parents’ heartache, even though they know their daughter is alive. Claire’s mom also shares the backstory of how Claire was born and what happened with her kidnapping. Again, I cannot say more without revealing too much.
I highly recommend this book. It’s the first in a series, so we have more to look forward to from Ms. Humphrey. I, for one, am glad for that!