Overall rating of 3 stars is the result of averaging ratings for all the stories.
First of all, let me just say that I appreciate the $.99 cost of thiOverall rating of 3 stars is the result of averaging ratings for all the stories.
First of all, let me just say that I appreciate the $.99 cost of this book, and the fact that it benefits the American Heart Association. One other benefit I would list is that reading straight through it like I did, all 14 stories, was just kind of an easy way to read without having to decide what was next. I guess I am just lazy. :)
Now - for the bad news. So many of these stories were just OK or even downright bad. With one real standout and 2-3 other promising offerings, that left me with 9 just OK stories to slog through. Several times I was wishing I could DNF one to skip to another, but there was no table of contents function for this book in my Kindle so short of paging through to find the next story, I couldn’t easily do that. I did end up skimming some. Here’s my take on each story.
Accidental Seal by Sharon Hamilton. The writing was clear, I could at least follow the story and action without being confused. I found both leads to have very little depth however. There was also an abundance of cliches throughout and in the end it was just not believable. 2 stars for me.
Pick Your Poison by Roxanne St. Claire. This was one of the 2-3 “promising offerings” for me! The plot was original within the context of this compilation, and the characters had some cliche romance novel aspects to them, but were more fully fleshed out. Callie especially had a little more pep than I was expecting, and the connection between Ben and Callie felt realistic. The action was well described and paced well. The romance aspect was spicy and had enough wit to avoid being sappy. In all, I found myself wishing this was longer. 4 stars.
Protective Custody by Paige Tyler. Pretty good suspense, spicy romance. Decent characters but the “plot twist” was clear to me from the outset. Not terrible, right in the middle of the pack. 3 stars.
Hot Pursuit by Lynne Raye Harris. I actually really liked this one. Strong, palpable setting of the small town on the bayou. Well drawn backstory, with Evangeline having lost her restaurant to a con artist and having to turn to Matt Girard, her childhood best friend who took her virginity when she was a teenager and then left her to deal with the fallout years ago, for help. Matt and Evie have a connection that felt real, and their re-connection feels honest and fraught with danger. Add to that the real danger of the criminals after Evie and it’s exactly along the lines of what I think a romantic suspense novel should be. 4 stars.
Seal’s Honor by Elle James. Lots of telling rather than showing in this one. The two leads got together before the start of the story and we really don’t see their relationship evolve much. Seems like a decent idea for a book - one male soldier in love with a female soldier but their relationship is on the DL and his best friend is in love with her too. Friend gets critically injured and girl agrees to marry him to give him hope to survive, etc. Will they ever be able to be together? But James didn’t execute on the plot with characters and interactions that got me invested. So I didn’t really care. 2 stars.
Against the Dark by Carolyn Crane. So I had already read this one and everything else by Crane and it was by far, hands down, the best in this compilation. I love everything about Angel and Cole’s story. Each of them has their demons they bring into it, she is ashamed of her past as a criminal, while he is obsessed with taking down criminals and will do anything, including using her, to do it. Neither of them expects each other and the way they come together and take down the bad guy is combustible, exciting, and absolutely embodies the concept of romantic suspense. Crane always does intense, psychological romance well but some of her stories resonate more with me than others, and this is one of my favorites. 5 stars!
Hidden Prey by Cheyenne McCray. Decent but strained the bounds of suspended disbelief a little too much. I did like that Tori was a musician and thought the setting was well drawn. 3 stars.
Dangerous Curves by Nina Bruhns. A little too quick and easy how these two fell into bed and then ended up in a cottage by the sea. Didn’t have quite enough oomph to pull off that level of speed. 2 stars.
Deadly Pursuit by Misty Evans. Longer than some of the other stories, and an appropriate amount of build up and backstory. Celina is a rookie Latina FBI agent and Cooper is the grizzled DEA team lead she works for when the shit hits the fan and they have to go on the run. While I enjoyed that Celina is capable and not a damsel in distress like so many others in this genre, some of the twists and turns and machinations of other agents and criminals were a little fantastical. 3 stars.
Protecting Caroline by Susan Stoker. Could Caroline be any more self-deprecating and mousy? Could Wolf be any more the cliche “player just looking for the girl with a heart of gold” soldier? Could they fall into insta-lust any quicker? While the terrorism subplot was more interesting than some of the other books, all in all I was mostly just annoyed. 2 stars.
One Night Stand by Parker Kincade. After the eye-rolling self-effacery of Caroline in the last story, the banter between smart-ass Amanda and her friend Sam was refreshing! Amanda’s 3 protective older brothers are good for a little bit of comic relief. And it’s nice to have a family dynamic instead of the whole military team dynamic that is in most of these stories. This was pretty good but not really a standout. 3 stars.
Brody by Mandy Harbin. Xan is a single mother in the witness protection program, fleeing her mobster ex-husband. Brody is a hot, amnesiac mechanic and covert operative (puhlease!) assigned to protect her. They fall into insta-lust and then must overcome obstacles (some danger but mostly themselves, of course) to be together. The most problematic aspect of this story for me is how we’re told Xan was brutalized and raped by her husband and has had no lovers or friends for the last 12 years, but she immediately falls into some risky and submissive sex with Brody with no qualms at all, and even into a typical girly BFF relationship with her neighbor including frank discussions about sex and girls nights out. It just undermined the backstory and helped to deflate my level of engagement with the urgency and suspense. 2.5 stars.
Enemy Mine by Megan Mitcham. So the problem with this one is, it’s a strong plot and I even liked the characters. They had their dark pasts and secrets and their reasons to mistrust each other, as well as a history and reason to love each other. And there were genuinely good moments in this, themes of forgiveness, overcoming past abuse that resonated. But in spite of all this good stuff, the prose was florid, convoluted, and just plain hard to understand. While I believed their connection, I definitely felt there was some overkill in the “Oh I love him - Oh I love her - Oh this love overcomes all” department that undermined what were essentially strong characters up to that point. I think this book could have stood to be edited. Take some of the sappy love talk out… some sappy love talk is impactful, too much just overwhelms all the other elements of the story and takes the whole thing into a less comfortable place. So I wanted to like this one and I feel this author might improve with other books (no idea what other books she has or if this is her first), but it disappointed given its potential. 3 stars.
Caught in the Crosshair by Barb Han. It was interesting (in the context of a “romance” novel) that this book was better when the two leads were swimming in the ocean during a hurricane, fighting off sharks and South American cartels, than it was when they were having sex. So that is to say, I liked it until they started doing “it” and then it went downhill quickly! It was like all the author’s ability to succinctly describe the character’s actions in a linear fashion went right out the window. I was scratching my head during the sex scene. It really seemed like the author wrote the scene and then re-wrote it a couple more times and then couldn’t decide which was better so she just copy/pasted it all together. Some of the things the characters did seemed honestly chronologically out of order… I lost interest after slogan through that. 2 stars.
In summary: I would say the stories in this anthology are pretty representative of my experience in the romantic suspense genre. I tend to prefer “secret agent” type plots more than military/Navy SEAL type plots, and that held true here. I also would have said before I read this that it’s hard to combine the appropriate amount of romantic angst and true dangerous suspense in one book, and not many authors can do it well. I still stand by that - but would add when it’s done well, it’s a potent mix. If you’re into this kind of thing, there is probably something here you’d like. I, for one, will be taking a break from romantic suspense for a while!...more