RATING: 3.75 stars
Special Agent Ryan O'Connor is starting to get her life back together in the aftermath of a shooting and her boss's arrest. Despite scheduling incompatibilities preventing them from seeing one another, she and Allison are doing great; she's preparing to return to full duty; and she's trying to block out the voices of those who've been doubting she still has what it takes to do her job.
Ryan should've known things were never that simple. When a ghost from her past reappears without warning, blindsiding her in a way she never could have expected, Ryan’s entire existence is badly shaken. She’d always believed that the best protection any woman could ever have—aside from a gun—was courage, but now she finds herself asking a question she never thought she’d need to answer: Who protects the Secret Service?
Cover Artist: Melody Pond (Yes! This must surely be a pseudonym, but it's an AWESOME one. Gosh, I miss River Song so much).
Genres: Intrigue & Thriller
Purchase link: Bold Stroke Books
Reviewed by Rebecca
The great things that led to a high rating...
This was a rather good book, and that's coming from someone who doesn't often pick-up something that isn't sci-fi or literary fiction. The writer has a fabulous ability to convey and explore emotion. There are wonderful descriptions of our narrator's reactions to various events, many of which felt very real and believable. All of this kept me highly engaged for the majority of the story, which I finished in a couple of days. With little kids invading my space all the time, that's a quick read for me, and means I just felt myself needing to come back to the story.
Even though I hadn't read the first two books, it didn't take long to be quite familiar with the MC's personality. It isn't an easy feat to ease a totally new reader into a series in Book 3, but they've managed to do it!
The cast of characters are interesting and I enjoyed reading about most of them, including Ryan's father, and Claudia Quinn. Plus, is it just me or is there something between Quinn and the President's daughter ('Hurricane')? The characters really are a strong point, though. We get a strong sense of who everyone is, how they feel, how they react to things and why, and what tends to motivate their behaviour.
The aspects that held me back from 5 stars...
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
I found having nearly 30% of the book being dedicated to the running race at the start to be a little excessive for a novel presented as being about action, but the inter-agency event did a very good job of catching-up the new readers and establishing relationships and so it certainly wasn't wasted in any way. I absolutely love well-written descriptive passages, but it depends on the book's genre, cover, and blurb as to what the reader's expectations surrounding that will likely be. At times I felt their were too many metaphors on the back of one another, with some paragraphs being one metaphor about emotional state after another. BUT - they were good ones so I got over it fairly fast ;) The sex scene also went on a bit long for my taste, but plenty of other readers will appreciate the very thing I didn't particularly love. That's one of the things with reviews, isn't it? Preference. If you like explicit love scenes, it'll work well. If you're like me and not really a fan of them, you may skip a few pages in the first half - not a big deal, though, and certainly not a reflection of the writing.
It was good to see a bisexual (or pansexual, perhaps?) character in the form of Allison. Though, I did wonder at the use of the phrase "fly her freak flag" when our main character, Ryan, was reflecting on how accepting she is of Allison's sexuality. I may be being too precious on this, but the phrase stood out to me as a little less than accepting. Sometimes though, colloquialisms that are common in the USA don't quite make sense to me as an Australian, just as some phrases in my book were flagged by American readers as grammatically incorrect or nonsensical, but they're Aussie idioms that are appropriate for the character's context. I'll leave that to others to reflect on. I could've lived with out it though.
The book has, for better or worse, a lot in common with Radclyffe's Honor series. Being original is incredibly hard to do, and the book is a really easy-going read. I wouldn't recommend it if you're looking for something less formulaic when compared to super popular lesfic, something different and unique - because it isn't. But if you LOVE the formula of many popular lesfic books, this is a really competent and interesting addition to the cop-drama trope. I enjoyed reading it. I actually read 35% of it whilst getting a painful tattoo done on my back, so thanks so much for keeping me distracted, Kara. A. McLeod! :)
MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD
Okay. So here's the main thing I didn't like about the book. And I'm so sorry to the author because, you know what, this is my personal preference and something I've long disliked about lesfic.
Rape. Why does someone always have to get raped? If I were to hazard a guess, I think that a woman gets raped by a man in anywhere between 50-80% of the lesfic books I've read, especially those that fall into genre fiction like thriller/action/sci-fi action. I prefer genre fiction to romance, so that means I am working from a limited scope of books when I make this call.
I've discussed my problems with this plot device before, and so my little rant here isn't really about this book alone. But the last 15% of the story really lost me because I just thought 'Really? AGAIN?!' I want to see our writers find some other way to create drama, to explore a character's reactions to traumatic situations. When the secondary health problem that came with the sexual assault in the book was introduced in the last 10% of the book, I think I really had just had enough - it's clear that the rape will probably be used as a huge point of conflict in subsequent books and I don't know if I have the emotional energy for it. Of course I know sexual assault is highly prevalent in society, and I don't need to tell the internet why this particular issue is one I'm so tired of reading about. I don't want the issue to be ignored in any way. Nope, nope, nope. But I do want to see a more reasonable number of occurrences of it in books.
Just like some people (including me) are tired of our LGBTIQA+ characters (or their direct allies) being killed off, I'm tired of them being sexually abused in just disproportionate numbers, and for the same reasons that the Lesbian Death Trope is an issue.
But if you aren't an picky as I am about this particular plot device, please don't be deterred. For the other 85% of the book I was really enjoying it!
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