Black Ice

Black Ice - Anne Stuart 3.5 STARSI've been volleying between YA, adult and PNRs that I've totally neglected my Romantic Suspense shelf. After reading a couple of recent reviews on this series in my feed, I decided to give Anne Stuart a go. I've pushed back reading these books because I realize that I've been mixing it up with Suzanne Brockman's Troubleshooters series (for reasons that will not make sense even if I remember them).Our hero is Bastien Toussaint, an operative for a secret organization called the Committee, who aims to control the international arms trade through a weapons cartel. Predictably, with that job description comes moral ambiguity and a strong belief system rooted to the end justifying the means. While undercover, he meets Chloe Underwood, an American translator hired to facilitate in a clandestine meeting among arms (and sheep!) dealers from all over the world. The early chapters unfolded in a tense and fast-paced manner, revolving around Bastien's mistrust of Chloe and her purpose in the meeting. Thankfully, this issue was not exhausted ad nauseam and the plot moved along in a fast-paced and entertaining manner thanks to Bastien's unpredictability. Having been exposed to nearly every possible romantic plot device imaginable, certain scenes proceed in my mind in auto-mode: Bastien finds Chloe cold and shivering under the pouring rain after having left her on her own for far too long. Chloe would be pissed and there should be some tugging at his alpha heart, see how she's fragile and weak, maybe an apologetic, charming smile.... yeah, that didn't happen. Chloe rejects Bastien's propositioning her..."Are you wanting to convince me that you aren't attracted to me? I know women, cherie, and I know when they're interested and when they're not. I don't understand your hesitation, but I am always one to accept my dismissal gracefully. There are other women. There are always other women."By the way, I am so impressed when an author can write a foreigner speaking English a certain way and the inflection is cut clearly across. I could almost hear the nasal accent to Bastien's voice. I'm not sure if I'm a fan of this Extreme Alpha Male Hero breed because I have been complaining about how cookie-cutter some of the alpha male heroes I've read recently (I'm looking at you Raiden Ulysses Miller). While this flavor is less vanilla alpha, the taste certainly encourages some discussion. In this book, Chloe was subjected to physical violence, drugging, some verbal abuse and sex that was questionably consensual (I'm not calling it rape because I can't commit that THAT actually happened). I've seen all these (and worse) and came out the other end still loving the hero. Bastien, while I liked, I couldn't love enough to see his deeds in a shade other than bad. I couldn't find a redeeming point, though at this juncture, I'm not even sure if it's even in the author's intent. There were gaps that tried to explain Bastien's formative past but these were doled out in a narrative manner when I felt it would've been better served as a flashback scene to better appeal (or manipulate) the reader to see beyond these atrocious moments with Chloe.There were a stretch of scenes where Bastien and Chloe were running from the cartel that got really repetitive. I had to put this book away several times (because of real life) and whenever I picked it up again I feel like I'm reading the same scene in a different house/hotel room. Bastien and Chloe's internal struggles also got too redundant and tedious -- Is it Stockholm? He can't possibly have the hots for me, I'm too plain!-- that it took away the momentum of the chase more often than not. All in all, still a decent first book for a series. The sexy was a pleasant surprise... the cover is a house in the middle of snow after all (Oh NOW I remember why I've put off reading this one for so long).I'm still picking up the next one in the hopes that I get better feels than this.