Fire and Ice
Unlike most Julie Garwood readers I’ve encountered, I am more familiar with her contemporary romantic suspense books than I am with her historicals. From my understanding, her RS books are not quite as well received – but as someone who has never read one of her historicals, I found Fire and Ice perfectly enjoyable, if a bit convoluted.
Sophie Rose has lived her entire life under the shadow of her father. Known as a modern-day Robin Hood, her father has spent his life stealing money from wealthy businessmen who gain their fortune in nefarious ways, and then giving that money to working class Chicagoans. Despite the constant barrage of law enforcement officials who demand to know where her father is, Sophie has tried to live a quiet life as a journalist at a small Chicago newspaper. It is in this role that she meets an arrogant habitual 5K runner, poised to win his 25th race. Despite his atrocious self-centeredness, she shows up to cover his race – except he disappears before it starts. Assuming he just flaked out, Sophie is pissed. Until she gets a call from a police officer in Alaska, telling her that they found his leg. And that the rest had been eaten by a polar bear.
Sophie thinks there’s more to the story, but it isn’t until she starts receiving threatening phone calls from someone mad at her father and also is shot that people start paying attention, including FBI agent Jack MacAllister (the partner of the hero in Murder List, who happens to be Sophie’s best friend’s husband). It is decided that she’ll get out of Chicago while the scandal surrounding her father’s latest escapade blows over, so she and Jack set out to Alaska to dig further into the disappearance of the runner, only to discover that it was much, much more than a simple polar bear attack.
If this plot summation doesn’t quite make sense to you, I assure you the book itself is easier to follow, as convoluted as it is; it is all just a little bit too complicated to get into in a review without spoiling the plot. Unfortunately, Garwood doesn’t quite manage to make all the pieces fit in a truly cohesive way. At the end, there are too many characters to keep straight. The setup leading up to the trip to Alaska, which doesn’t happen until two-thirds of the way into the book, also contains a number of convoluted plot points, and some of them are a bit contrived in order to make it all work together.
However, the author does more characterization through dialogue than I’ve seen done in a long time. Almost everything I know about Sophie’s and Jack’s characters I learned through what they said, how they spoke, and the tenor of their conversations – and this is no small feat. Most of their relationship development gets shown through dialogue, and I really liked that. I only wished there was a bit more relationship development; believing their HEA was a bit of a stretch for me, as I hadn’t quite felt that their love had reached that point yet. I really liked them both as characters, though. Neither seemed particularly unusual (Sophie as the feisty but good-hearted heroine, Jack as the Alpha-hero law enforcement officer), but they were both solidly done and likeable.
I give a word of advice for people (like me) who usually skip chapter prefaces – the quotes, song lyrics, or passages that precede the actual story. Each chapter starts with an excerpt of a journal of a biologist. Read them; they will help everything make much more sense, and I imagine the conclusion would be much more difficult to follow if you skip them, the way I do when I’m not reading for review.
Fire and Ice, despite its many-faceted plot and multitude of minor characters, was a good read. It may not have been perfect, but it was exciting and well written, and that’s enough for me.