Okay, first off...I love this cover!
Judge Laurel Kincaide is running for chief judge of Alabama. If elected she’ll make history as the first woman to fill that role. To get there she has to survive the primary. Cole McGaughan is a religion reporter sent south to cover the campaign. The only problem, the secret in her past is tied directly to him. Their ambition is on a collision course with that secret.
In this book, author Elizabeth White paints a vibrant picture of the south and politics. Each time the book threatened to fall into a cliché, she managed to write beyond it. And each time I anticipated where the plot headed, she managed to keep me interested anyway.
As an attorney, I’m always leery of books set in a legal environment that are written by non-attorneys. The author handles those risks very well. The limited scenes actually set in a courtroom or in the judge’s chambers are well written with enough details to let me know she’d done her research. The bulk of the focus though is on Laurel’s campaign and the hidden secret from her past. The campaign scenes are well-written with a finessed sense of humor evident – particularly in the scene at the chicken festival.
Laurel is surrounded by a cast of family and friends that are well-fleshed out. They each add something to the plot and avoid becoming cardboard cut-outs. “Stick mom on stage left and baby sister on stage right.” Cole’s friend Matt provides a nice foil and elevates the conflict several notches. He has a satisfying character arc that makes the book even stronger.
The romance between Laurel and Cole was filled with believable conflict from the first page of the book. Their past could keep them apart forever or pull them together. It’s all up to them and whether they’re willing to deal with the fear and baggage of the past.
And the spiritual thread was challenging and incredibly well-written. It flowed from the experiences of the character and fit who they were. It never felt like an after thought shoved into the story to make it fit the Christian market. Instead, it was carefully woven throughout the book and enhanced the plot.
I read this book quickly because the pull of the characters and story was too strong to walk away from. I had to know how it ended. And that ending was very satisfying…even with a twist at the end that touched on overly convenient.
Off the Record is very well written and a great addition to your reading list.