Next of Kin (Rebel Ridge Series #1)

Next of Kin (Rebel Ridge Novels) - Sharon Sala "Next of Kin" is the very first book by Sharon Sala I've ever read, so I can't say that I'm familiar with her work other than the fact that I received this as a galley in 2011 and am just now having the opportunity to read it (I'm working through a rather long backlog). It gets two stars because it pulled me into the story for its suspense/thriller elements. Its a story about a woman who witnesses a murder from her window, sort of in a "Rear Window" type way. Beth watches a couple arguing and then watches as the man in the argument slits the throat of his ex-wife. Beth works as an illustrator so when her friend calls the police, she's able to give them a sketch and identify the guy. But little does Beth know that the murderer is a major mob boss whom the police have been watching for ages. Any attempts to report against the guy are either intimidated or killed as far as witness testimony is concerned. Beth survives three attempts against her life, before calling her uncle and returning to the one place she would rather not be - back home to where she left a lover behind ten years ago.The action sequences and tension are decent, as were the multiple perspective points (predictable some of them might have been), but the romance irked me. I could've read this through a mental filter in that the hero (Ryal) and heroine (Beth) were supposed to have a purported romantic relationship since he was 25 and she was 17, and the fact they were distant cousins. But it was the fact that this notation kept popping up throughout the text over and over again that it really turned me off and I didn't like it at all. It felt like it was trying to constantly justify the relationship and force feed it. That threw me out of the story a few times as I read it. I also, to be blunt about it, didn't really see the connection between them all that much. Despite the letters Beth never got, despite the rather forthright love scenes, I just felt a disconnect in that measure through the entire narrative.In the end, it was just an okay read. It's not one of the best blend of suspense/thriller/romance stories I've perused, but I took it for what it was worth, and it kept me reading. But there were flaws and things that bothered me and kept me from rating it higher.Overall score: 2/5Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Harlequin MIRA.