I found this story, with a plot full of suspense and action (and a sexy male lead), to be ultimately rather joyless. The characters are constantly weighed down by their punishing pursuer and, while they strike some sparks in hot situations, it’s not enough to make the time spent with them worthwhile.
Christie Pratchett is being stalked, harassed, and driven out of her mind by a relentless stalker who is …ahem, getting closer. She’s on the verge of packing her bags and running away when she discovers he’s managed to close out her bank accounts. She calls an emergency phone number left to her by a now-dead brother who used to be in an elite military unit. She thinks she got the wrong number, but a few hours later, Boone, a former soldier who served with her brother, appears.
That’s the basic setup. Boone is there to protect her from that point on, and the two being in such close quarters, it would be natural for them to strike a few sparks while trying to outwit the enemy. Oh, if it were only so simple. Despite some enjoyable chemistry between the two, I had a few too many problems with the book to recommend it.
The first is that Boone puts some strange plans into motion that really didn’t make sense to me given the immediacy of the situation as well as the stalker’s superior and more sophisticated abilities. For instance, he puts Christie on a healthier diet because she’s lost weight and strength during her ordeal, teaches her how to shoot a gun, and decides to purposefully draw out the stalker by…you guess it…pretending that the two are in a serious relationship. Given that the stalker was breathing down their necks, for most of the book I kept wondering why bother even learning how to shoot?
I did like some scenes where the author developed the romance. A key point in their relationship is when Christie breaks down, and Boone is there to just comfort her with his presence and physical support. This is just one small step in how their relationship grows. The author makes it work while making the characters seem very human; it seemed raw and real, and I enjoyed those parts.
However, my other problem with the book is that every time Christie and Boone take a step forward as either a couple or just Christie regaining her confidence, the stalker does something that makes them take two steps back. Sizzling hot love scenes in which the two turn to each other for support are frequently followed by overpowering reminders that the stalker hasn’t gone away. Their romance skids every time the stalker rears his ugly head, and it ends up getting lost within the mystery of the stalker. In addition, the stalker subplot was very uneven; it strained believability (and my goodwill) and was not satisfying in the end.
I also wondered why, even though I thought the author was competent, I didn’t enjoy this story very much. I found it very difficult to warm up to the characters, and I realized part of the problem was that Christie was already a victim we are introduced to her. The story begins when the stalking has already reached an intense level, and Christie is a wreck, clinging to her sanity by a thread. Consequently, it makes it very difficult to first identify who she is as a person and to connect with her. Who is Christie the normal woman? We don’t know. The author gives little bits and pieces, as every now and then the characters manage to crack a smile and reveal something about who they are ordinarily, but it’s not enough. We find out even less about Boone, the former soldier with the mysterious past.
In the end, I felt that the suspense plot and mystery had taken up too much time and created too much of a burden on the characters, neither of whom was allowed to breathe freely or ever exit “training mode”. I respected the author’s ability, but this book wasn’t something I’d revisit – or recommend.