If you read the previous Melanie Travis mystery, Unleashed, and you are like me, you were likely disappointed to see Melanie's fiance Sam take off for an undetermined time following his ex-wife's murder for reflection and what-not. Berenson, however, appeases us in Once Bitten by fulfilling the promise of a wedding - that of Melanie's brother Frank.
While she is happy to see her brother maturing into a responsible businessman and committing himself to dog trainer/knockout Bertie Kennedy, Melanie is still nursing the wounds of her breakup. When Bertie's flighty wedding planner, part-time trainer Sara, mysteriously disappears, Melanie finds there is no time left to cry over spilt engagements when Bertie pleads with her to find Sara. . . and help plan a wedding while she's doing that.
Berenson injects quite a dose of romance in this installment when in the midst of all this chaos, ex-husband Bob returns to town, clearly bitten by the reconciliation bug. I have to admit, Melanie's divided loyalties between maintaining a stable home life for son Davey (who is ecstatic to have his father so close) and yearning for her missing true love made for better suspense than the actual mystery, the disappearance and even more bizarre reappearance of Sara, a character I came to like less and less as the story progressed.
I have enjoyed the Melanie Travis series since its inception, but with Once Bitten I fear Berenson may be hitting her stride. However, the weaknesses detected in the actual mystery (the aforementioned Sara and her conflicts with her even less likable parents. . . Melanie herself admits she can't stand them) are bolstered by the compelling subplot. I certainly hope for the next book the mystery will be a bit meatier (no pun intended).
Kathryn Lively is the publisher of Phaze, romance novels in eBook and paperback. She offers book promotion advice for authors.