Anne Stuart is known for her dark heroes and Black Ice features one who is darker than usual. Bastien Toussaint has lived under many identities as he works undercover for the mysterious Committee. He is used to living alone and allows himself feelings for no one. However, on his latest assignment, he finds himself uncharacteristically drawn to naïve translator Chloe Underwood.
Chloe, who works in Paris translating children’s books, takes a job at a business conference in order to do her roommate a favor. Instead of a mere business conference, however, Chloe quickly learns that she has allowed herself to be drawn into a very dangerous realm. The “businessmen” are far more sinister than Chloe has been led to believe and instead of a peaceful country weekend, Chloe finds herself on the run with a man she is drawn to, but not certain she can ever trust.
Most readers are probably well aware going that this taut thriller is no tender love story. Stuart’s writing here is tight and the story is packed with action and darkness, still there were a few scenes buried in the story that I found oddly moving. Bastien is such a cold, dark hero that any subtle softening in him carries greater significance than it would with most heroes. While his utter coldness at the beginning of the book shocked me (and will likely shock many readers), I found myself feeling more sympathetic by the end. Bastien is not someone I personally would find romantic, but I have to admit he is an intriguing and exciting character.
Bastien’s attraction to Chloe did not ring true to me at first since his initial treatment of her seemed a little too brutal to justify that feeling. And even though Chloe seems so painfully naïve that it is almost impossible to see her with a jaded assassin, as the reader gets to know her, it is obvious that she is more than just naïve and mousy. There is a quiet strength to her that develops very subtly throughout the story. I’m not sure that Stuart ever fully convinced me that Chloe and Bastien are a perfect match, but she is not too far off the mark, either.
Anne Stuart’s dark romances are a guilty pleasure of mine, and this tightly plotted thriller was one I enjoyed a lot. While not my favorite of her works, it is certainly a worthy addition and one that I will turn to again when craving something dark and intensely different from the books I normally read.