Better Than the Best by Amabel Daniels
Better Than the Best by Amabel Daniels follows Kelly Newland, an ex-ER nurse, and new divorcee trying to start over in a small town she hadn’t meant to settle down in. As she learns deal with her recent career and marital failures, Kelly makes a lot of new friends except for two: a disgruntled war hero that’s hated by the entire town, and someone that’s hurting her friends.
Before I get into the characters, I want to commend the author on the setting. Amabel Daniels captures the quirks, prejudices, charm and annoyances that comes with living in a small town, as well as the nosy, weird, mean, and charming small town neighbors. I enjoyed seeing the tourist town before the tourist season and after, when it deals with the influx of people. The setting comes alive just as much as the actual characters and I believe, plays a big role in Kelly and Will’s healing and character growth throughout the novel.
Now for the characters. The secondary characters played huge roles in this novel, as at some point, most of Kelly’s friends have suspicious accidents. They’re all vibrant and full of life, and I found myself laughing throughout the book, and concerned when the pattern became apparent. They quickly accept Kelly into their circle, and her life and theirs are enriched from the relationships.
The villain, a girl named Emily, and master of disguise, had me wondering which of the jealous string of women in Clay’s life was the crazy bad guy, if she was one of them. She’s got a sad backstory, but her manic need to steal and make Kelly pay had me seriously freaked out. This author can write a twisted character.
Kelly, the main female, a tom boy, is rough, has a crass sense of humor, and is one of the guys. She gets a lot of comments from jealous women who think she’s sleeping around, doesn’t have a problem setting any of the women straight, or telling them to mind their own business. She’s also super smart and though she’s not trying to, makes a lot of people feel inferior because she’s just a capable person, which makes her a lot of enemies. She also has extensive medical, legal, and martial arts knowledge, and made quite a few fools of small town cops, doctors and EMTs, thanks to her four big brothers teaching her everything they know so she can take care of herself. I didn’t think of her as a know-it-all, though a lot of characters accused her of it. She’s just a capable women and it was nice to see how threatening normal, competent women can be. Kelly isn’t psycho or a typical heroine. She’s a little abrasive at times too. Trying to figure out which identity Emily assumed had me questioning every character interaction and really ratcheted up the suspense.
Will, the main male, is a veteran suffering from PTSD, a war-related injury, anger, and a bad attitude. He’s been a town outcast for years, but it’s only gotten worse since he came home from war. Everyone is convinced he’s suicidal and a drunk, like his father. He and Kelly get along like water and oil at first, but by the end of the book, their fighting is more like foreplay. At first, I thought they were going to kill each other. Even after their worst fights when I’m sure they’re going to kill each other, Will and Kelly manage to better each other. Kelly sees through Will’s angry exterior, and for the first time, he has to learn to deal with someone who isn’t afraid of him. Will, for his part, calls Kelly on a lot of her issues. For two of the most stubborn characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading about, I alternated between laughing, wanting to throw my kindle (had it been a physical book, I would have), and crying. I really enjoyed how this relationship evolved. I also enjoy that Will grows in other relationships and has friends again, which was heartwarming.
I found this book to be quickly paced, even in a small town setting, and didn’t know who Emily was until she was revealed. It was excellently written and well plotted. I will be reading more by this author.
My Rating: 5/5
If you’re interested in Better Than the Best, you can buy it on Amazon for only $2.99.
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