Nikki Walker has just lived through an awful year. First, her father disappeared. When she talked with the police, Detective Joe Galtero appeared to want to help her find him. The two were instantly attracted to each other and an intense two-week affair followed. Then the ugly accusations began about her father and his partner looting the company and leaving investors high and dry. Nikki then discovered that Joe knew about the accusations and was investigating her father and thought she might know about the embezzlement. The bitter argument over his betrayal resulted in Nikki leaving San Diego and Joe almost losing his badge for sleeping with her.
With no money, Nikki finally ended up working for her aunt in a struggling Canadian bed-and-breakfast. Sick and heartbroken about both her father and Joe, she didn't realize she was pregnant until a couple of months after leaving California. Before her father's disappearance she had lived the life of privilege. Working as a housekeeper for her aunt and having to learn to pinch pennies has been a difficult experience. Her new son, Michael, is the only good thing she has in her life. She has returned to San Diego to find out if she can sell the family home and its contents with the investigation still ongoing. She has also come back to tell Joe about his son.
Joe understood why Nikki was so mad at him but was still upset that she disappeared. He tried to see her soon after she returned, but she was still hostile. When he is alerted that she has been attacked in her home, he rushes to the scene to discover not only a very shaken Nikki but also the son he didn't know he had. The attackers thought Nikki knew where to find her father. Despite his partner's concerns, Joe takes personal time to stay with Nikki and Michael to protect them. He also agrees to let her help find the truth about her father.
The author does a wonderful job of starting in the middle of the action. She deftly gives enough background information so that the previous relationship between Nikki and Joe is quickly understandable. As threats to Nikki continue, she places Nikki and Joe in close proximity so they have more time to get to know each other. Nikki has to learn trust Joe and Joe has to convince her that he wants both his son and her in his life. When he agrees to let her work with him on her father's disappearance, he takes a big step toward convincing her.
The action and the personal interactions are very balanced so that the story moves quickly without sacrificing the redevelopment of the relationship. Joe's introduction of Nikki and Michael to his extended family is a high point.
The low point of the story consists of Nikki, in a snit, deciding to leave a safe place and taking Michael with her to run an errand. This sets up the final confrontation and reveals the true villain, but until this incident, Nikki had been smart to stand up to Joe and make him work with her. While it quickened the pace for a dramatic ending, this plot device is overused.
Despite that one lapse, I recommend Secrets of an Old Flame as a gripping story of action and of second chances. Nikki, Joe, and Michael deserve to be together.
--B. Kathy Leitle