Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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So, just finished Deb Coates’ debut novel, WIDE OPEN. I’d put a picture of the cover here if I could figure out how to open two windows at once on this new laptop, which is a ridiculous problem, I know! Because obviously there must be a perfectly simple way to do this. I will call the place I got it and ask them one of these days. In the meantime, google WIDE OPEN because that’s a pretty nice and quite unusual cover, you should take look at it.

Now, Deb and I have the same agent, and I’ve met Deb a couple of times, and hey! She’s a dog person! She actually owns a GERMAN PINSCHER. You know nobody just stumbles into owning a German Pinscher. You have to be a real dog person to even know they exist. She also has a Rottweiler, btw, so naturally I told her she ought to get a black-and-tan Min Pin, too, just to complete the set.

Anyway, naturally I wanted to love her book!

Whew! Because I did. WIDE OPEN’s being marketed as an urban fantasy — well, contemporary, because it sure isn’t urban — or a paranormal, and of course that’s no surprise because paranormal is so hot hot hot right now, but this one really isn’t very paranormal-ish. The romance is not central enough and it’s not woman-with-psychic-powers-meets-super-hottie anyway. Instead, the main character, Hallie, is recently bereaved (her sister has just died), grieving, angry, and pretty well hair-triggered — I liked her very much. And the romantic lead? He gets called “The Boy Deputy” by everyone in town because he’s so baby-faced. (Hilarious!)

And my favorite secondary character? Hallie’s father. Talk about the strong silent type, emphasis on the silent. I mean, here’s a line I just loved:

. . . while women organized the kitchen or the laundry or feed for the horses and men walked across the fields, looking for her father so they could lean against fences and never say a word.

Isn’t that great? I love the relationship between Hallie and her dad — I really look forward to seeing that subtle relationship develop in the next book (this one’s self contained but there will be at least two more).

And the setting! I’m SUCH a sucker for setting! South Dakota! Who sets a book in Big Sky country? I mean, other than westerns, and they’re not contemporary. LOVED the setting. Deb caught it just so well, it’s a real You Are There setting. Excellent dialogue, too, which I really admire. Deb really captured the clumsy stumbling dialogue that really happens in charged, intense situations. Like here, where Hallie calls a dead man’s fiancee to tell her about his death, and the fiancee says:

“He was the only guy I ever dated,” she said. “Because I’m not — No one ever — I’m not pretty,” she stated flatly. “It was a blind date that first time. My cousin fixed us up. And it was so embarrassing and kind of awful, but he was sweet about it, you know? I didn’t thnk he’d call, but he did — the next day even. And I liked him. I — he was the best guy. But I never knew, I couldn’t ask him, because why? Why would he go out with me? I don’t understand.”

I just loved that scene. It’s not an important scene, but it works really really well. And that’s typical.

So the identity of the bad guy is obvious and the bad guy himself is pretty ho-hum, for me anyway, but it’s the rest of the story which makes this book.

So I wouldn’t recommend this one to my mother, because one cuss word and she’s done with a book, you have no idea, but if that doesn’t bother you the way it does her, then hey! Ghosts, South Dakota, excellent characters, great dialogue, good solid writing — if that sounds like you, you might keep an eye out for this one.

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