"I-I think… you should run… while you can."
Listen to her, pendejo.
Javier made his decision, his muscles tensing.
It was time to bring the pain.
And boy, was the pain brought.
Because to put it simply, no romantic suspense book with as dull and bland main characters as Laura and Javier, should be as long as this one. That was my main beef against it. I think there was a point in the book where Laura enumerated three dresses she WAS NOT going to wear (and you know how detailed dress descriptions can get in contemporary romance) … and I nearly chucked this to my growing DNF pile at 65%-ish.
I was THAT bored.
First thing's first, I haven't been reading as much Romantic Suspense as I used to these past few months, but I've been looking forward to this book because, while as a whole The I-Team Series was pretty uneven, when it was good it can be pretty good. But when it was dull… well, it can be Gabe and Kat's book or… well, it could be this one.
This started with Laura Nilssen getting ambushed by a terrorist group in Afghanistan while reporting live on national TV. Everyone has proclaimed her dead, including Javier Corbray, the Navy SEAL operative she spent a no-strings-attached, mind-blowing week of sex with in Dubai a few years back. While doing a covert operation to take down Al-Qaeda separatist Abu Nayef Al-Nassar, Javier finds and rescues Laura as a prisoner in the rebel's compound. Burdened with the guilt of a secret, Laura finds her way back to US soil, rebuilding her life by working with the I-Team and testifying against Al-Nassar in his trial… among other things. Also burdened with guilt, Javier also finds himself in Colorado after being severely injured in a deployment that has left him questioning the kind of life that he leads. He somehow ends up protecting Laura from the imminent threat of her profession as a hardcore journalist and terrorist threat.
I think a big part of my disappointment with this installment can be blamed on the novella. Because at the end of First Strike, I did not feel any curiosity towards either main characters, I felt both were severely underdeveloped and the plot was padded with too much erotica without successfully laying a solid foundation for Laura and Javier's relationship. Neither came out likable in this book and ether was a sense of confused emotional turmoil in both protagonists. Should I really be concerned that Javier can't tell Laura that he was the one who rescued her in the compound? Should I really care if Laura will eventually find her daughter knowing she has no interest in becoming a mother and made no claims of feeling otherwise as the story progressed? It felt like their relationship was based solely on mind-blowing sex (and unrelatable childhood memories of frogs O.o)… which is fine, but something I'm not terribly interested to read a 300-page book about. As it is, it was so hard to root for either of them that the supposed climactic admission of love just left me apathetic.
I do see what Clare was trying to paint Laura as: a strong, intelligent, sexually confident woman broken by her incarceration and how she would pick up and finds herself in the midst of all that trauma. This book is asking me to like her while suspending my disbelief one too many times:
✽ She didn't know she was pregnant and she thought she was poisoned when she was actually giving birth! Because she was held captive, terrorized for so long, despite being an educated woman, a freaking journalist no less, Striking Distance says this is entirely possible. Uh, okay.
✽ Her excessive concern for Javier's discovery of her prior pregnancy through her stretchmarks. There was just too much stretchmarks involvement including, but not limited to, foreplay. Dude, you're Scandinavian, those would hardly be noticeable unless Javier's a dermatologist.
✽ That without her, the FBI wouldn't have found that clue to clear Ali Al Zharani. Please.
I mean, I accept that romantic suspense as a genre tends to bend a lot of rules of logic but some of those were just plain ridiculous.
And speaking of ridiculous, the cliches on this one just… I can't seem to remember this being an issue in the previous books because I would have made a note of it, but the racial cliches, particularly pertaining to Javier as a Puerto Rican hero was just phenomenally… there. Look, I don't need the guy to cuss in Spanish to cut across that he's a hot Latino alpha male.These things usually doesn't bother me but it was repeatedly hammered, page after page. The hero's Puerto Rican! Okay! I get it! He doesn't have to play a guitar, or make Boricua coffee with burritos for breakfast or have him come from a large matriarchal family or play Latino music while they dance or after having sex.
Laura and Javier held fast to each other, their bodies slick with sweat, as he carried her to the bed. Javier got his guitar, and, still naked, played for her, singing romantic love songs to her in Spanish, his voice deep and smooth. Then, contented and replete, they kissed each other to sleep.
Why can't they have a romantic dinner date while dancing traditional Swedish songs? As a woman, I would have appreciated that better, if he took the time out and researched MY heritage and not rely on the preconceived charms of his own.
I did like how Laura's issues were handled in the end. It was quite unique and something that I don't often see as a resolution. Though I wish that aspect was left alone and not resolved further in the Epilogue. The dialogue tended to get clunky and there was more Julian-Marc banter here. I missed Marc's snarky harassing of Gabe but I will take my Marc Hunter anyway I can get him.
As a romantic suspense book, it was pretty decent and I would probably still have some curiosity for the next books. I'd probably recommend reading this first before getting the novella. Speaking of… if anyone deserves a novella, Marc and Sophie's would definitely be an auto-buy for me.
Because that would be YA/NA.
And Pamela Clare writing YA/NA would certainly be something that would pique my interest.