Everyone has secrets, but there are secrets and there are Secrets! Once Wicked Always Dead by T. Marie Benchley is filled with secrets, some personal and others deadly.
Phillip Madison is hiding one very big Secret and Molly Madison, his wife, is the last to know. After 20+ years of marriage to a legal mover-and-shaker, Molly knows that their relationship has changed but she assumes it is because of work. Little does she know that Phillip is living a double life...not with another woman but with another man. As soon as "the other man" outs Phillip, she trades in her car for a truck, meets with a divorce attorney and moves from Florida to Montana to take over her family's working cattle ranch. Her life has truly been turned upside down, but the problems are just beginning. Fortunately she has Clayton Leatherbe, the ranch foreman, to help her through the transition of society wife to ranch owner.
Once Wicked Always Dead starts off with a murder and then transitions to a society lunch. Doesn't seem like these activities have a lot in common but Ms. Benchley does a fine job of bringing it together. There seems to be a lot going on in this story: Molly O'Malley Madison and ranch life and her romantic interest in Clayton; Phillip being outed then accepting his new life and finding a new love interest; Gavin O'Malley's secrets that may be a threat to Molly; Evin the resident bad guy willing to go to any means to get Molly's property; and Swan - Phillip's former lover and personal assistant, who is out for revenge. Oops...I forgot to mention the murderer that is taking out child molesters and bad guys. But Molly isn't a "bad guy" so why is she being targeted? Are the ghosts of her father's past coming back to haunt her?
Once Wicked Always Dead may loosely be considered a romantic suspense thriller, light on the romance. (There seemed to be more romantic action taking place with Phillip and Jack, Phillip’s new love interest, than there is between Molly and Clayton.) Although all of the characters intersect due to Molly and her past, present and future, the action doesn't make much sense or become cohesive until the end. I found most of the action and the characters to be somewhat believable but it stretched credulity at moments (I guess people with money can do almost anything). All things considered, this was a decent read in the suspense thriller genre.
Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."