Amazon’s description of Stolen Obsession by Marlene M. Bell: “People die, but legends live on.
New York antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury recently lost her best friend to murder. The killer’s identity may be linked to her friend’s expensive missing bracelet—a 500-year-old artifact that carries an ancient curse, one that unleashes evil upon any who dare wear the jewelry created for the Persian royal family.
Weeks later, Annalisse sees a matching necklace at a Manhattan gallery opening. She begs the owner to destroy the cursed piece, but her pleas fall on deaf ears—despite the unnatural death that occurs during the opening. With two victims linked to the jewelry, Annalisse is certain she must act.
Desperate, Annalisse enlists the gallery owner’s son to help—even though she’s afraid he’ll break her heart. Wealthy and devastatingly handsome, with a string of bereft women in his wake, Greek playboy Alec Zavos dismisses Annalisse’s concerns—until his parents are ripped from the Zavos family yacht during their ocean voyage near Crete.
Annalisse and Alec race across two oceans to save his mother, feared dead or kidnapped. When the killer changes tactics and goes after Alec behind Annalisse’s back, can her plan to rescue Alec’s mother save them all?
Hold on for a heart-thumping, thrilling adventure through exotic lands in this fast-moving romantic suspense mystery by Marlene M. Bell.”
From the book cover: “A prominent Manhattan antiquities appraiser, Annalisse Drury believes the butchery of her college roommate was a targeted hit—not a mugging. The loss of her closest confidant rips a canyon across her heart and unleased a familiar ache from the past. Detectives have no leads, and Annalisse would do anything to find the killer—even if it makes her a target…At a gallery opening weeks later, Annalisse notices a necklace of horse heads—a relic identical to her roommate’s stolen bracelet. Convinced the jewelry collection carries hideous evil and must be destroyed, Annalisse enlists the help of Alec Zavos. The gallery owner’s womanizing son who has his mother’s ear, but doubts Annalisse’s concerns. A startling second victim hurls Annalise and Alec together in a tempest of pulse-pounding treachery through exotic lands—that move them into an unimaginable future—if Annalisse can survive…”
Stolen Obsession by Marlene M. Bell is a blend of murder mystery and romance that offers an easy yet sometimes confusing read. While it leans more towards the romance side than I expected, the story remains engaging for those interested in a mystery with heavy romantic elements. The protagonist, Annalisse, an antiques appraiser, finds herself entangled in a mystery connected to the murder of her best friend. As she teams up with Alec, the rich Greek playboy son of the gallery owner, the plot unfolds with well-designed and unexpected twists and turns.
The story begins with immediate action, which was disorienting at first but quickly found its stride. However, it seemed the relationship between Annalisse and Alec developed too quickly, lacking subtlety. The author manages to introduce surprising twists and uses the Greek backdrop effectively to create an engaging, colorful atmosphere. It was especially vivid for me because I lived in Greece for several years and found the setting descriptions of Greece spot on.
I felt the opening scene of the horrific murder of Annalisse’s roommate needed more background information. It seemed thin though it was a central focus in the story. Details are, as one might expect, revealed gradually, but a prologue or earlier explanation to provide a stronger foundation might have been helpful. Additionally, I found the writing style was somewhat difficult due to odd phrasing and unclear dialogue exchanges that disrupted the flow. A “necklace of horse heads” is an example. They are not actually horse heads but, as you might expect, jewelry pieces resembling horse heads. Proper, thoughtful, informed editing could have addressed these issues.
I have mixed feelings about the romance in the book. I would have appreciated a slower pace giving the characters time to get to know each other before becoming intimate. I am by no means a prude, but once the romantic moments switched to sexual activity, I felt they occurred at inappropriate times and there was, in my opinion, an excessive focus on sexual tension and explicit scenes.
The two main characters, Annalisse and Alec, lacked likability for me. Alec, the Greek playboy character, appeared one-dimensional and overly focused on sex, even in the face of tragedy. Annalisse’s personality and actions didn’t resonate well either, and I struggled to connect with her. Both characters made unwise decisions throughout that created suspense but somehow seemed contrived and unrealistic.
The book’s strengths lie in its global settings, intricate web of clues and misdirection, and the constant suspense surrounding the murders and kidnappings. The story’s concept is interesting, and the potential for a captivating mystery is evident. However, I often felt disconnected from the story and struggled to connect with the characters and the author’s writing style though she has crafted a very good murder mystery.
All in all, “Stolen Obsession” presents an intriguing premise and a well-developed story, blending murder mystery and a big dose of Harlequinesque romance. While it may not appeal to all readers due to issues with character development, dialogue, and pacing, those seeking a romantic-heavy adventurous tale with elements of suspense and tinged with sex may find it enjoyable.
This book was a recommended read from a fellow writer and I have put Marlene M. Bell’s three other books on my ‘to read’ list.