Reading urban fantasy is a guilty pleasure of mine, so I was eagerly keeping tabs on whatever new books Darynda Jones released after her Charlie Davidson series was over. Much to my surprise, her next book, A Bad Day for Sunshine turned out to be a well-crafted romantic suspense novel, which is a departure for her usual genre. I already experienced this departure with Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton series that started with City of the Lost, which turned out to be another success in dipping one’s toes in another genre.
Sunshine Vicram has recently returned home to the small village of Del Sol, New Mexico, and much to her surprise, she soon became (almost against her will) sheriff of the small community. Sunshine left Del Sol many years ago when she was just a teenager due to something bad that happened to her that she desperately wanted to put behind. When she left, she was pregnant. When she came back, she had a teenage daughter, Auri, with her, and of course, her parents insisted that they move in with them. Not to mention they were probably the ones pulling the strings for Sunny to become a reluctant sheriff in the first place.
When she left, Sunshine didn’t just leave a sordid past behind. She also left her heart bleeding for Levi Ravinder, who now is a hunk of a specimen, an expert tracker who still gets her heart beating way too fast. When a young girl is kidnapped and Sunny takes the case, she gets the help of a US Marshall who doesn’t look too bad himself. Except that the current kidnapping case hits too close to home, and Sunshine needs to solve it before it is too late.
One aspect I always loved about Darynda Jones’s writing is her spunky dialogue and her witty comments. The banter between friends (especially between Sunny and her long-time friend Quincy, is just adorable. Even the direst situation brings out some funny chuckles that let us relieve the tension for a bit. A Bad Day for Sunshine retained this familiar style of writing, which I quite enjoyed.
The relationship between Sunny and Levy was full of unspent tension, and some of the bits and pieces revealed of their past sounded a bit too heartbreaking, and even a bit scary. You almost start to believe Levy was a bad man back in the day. But if he were one, there wouldn’t be a renewed interest between the two characters. And Levy’s story will definitely continue since some mysteries evolving around him were not solved in this book.
Having said that, the person who really stood out for me more than anyone else was Auri, Sunshine’s daughter. As a 14-year-old, she is quite precocious, and her relationship with her mother is great. They’re not only mother and daughter but also good friends.
While there is a main storyline in this book, there are several additional subplots, one involving Levy’s own nephew, and a few other smaller ones that Sunny has to eventually deal with.
The book is lighthearted, but it is in no way a cozy mystery. It has darker undertones, and you do sense that undercurrent even when the banters make you smile and grin. Sunny’s background is dark, and we are every now and then reminded that not all is as it looks.
As much as Darynda Jones is the queen of the urban fantasy genre, she definitely got a good foothold in the crime and mystery genre with this gem of a story.