On a positive note, Carla Cassidy’s latest single title romantic thriller begins extremely suspensefully. Unfortunately, even though the book is packed with excitement, features a diabolical villain, and a suspense plot that is anyone’s worst nightmare, some truly over-the-top plotting and an unlikely balance of romance to suspense add up to a novel that is ultimately only a little better than average.
Promise Him Anything opens dramatically with evil David Blankenship holding the occupants of a Kansas preschool hostage and demanding to see his ex-wife Juliette. Readers learn that Juliette fled her abusive ex-husband the previous year, taking their young son with her. Since then, she’s lived a nomadic existence as she tries to stay one step ahead of the man pursuing her.
Police officer Nick Corelli is called in to negotiate with David and end the hostage situation. Juliette, whose son is a hostage in the school, works with Nick in an attempt to diffuse the crisis, a sequence that is one of the strongest in the book. Not surprisingly, when David learns of Juliette’s cooperation with the police, he vows revenge.
Nick fears that David will harm or even kill Juliette, so he takes it upon himself to keep her and her son safe. It quickly becomes apparent that David is no ordinary violent ex-spouse, but is instead an intelligent and thoroughly remorseless psychopath bent upon teaching Juliette a lesson regarding what he sees as her betrayal.
In the meantime, as Nick spends more time with Juliette and her son, he is overwhelmed with protective feelings. He doesn’t fully understand what is happening to him at first, but he is determined to do whatever it takes to keep this woman safe. For her part, Juliette is still recovering from David’s abuse and the notion of trusting a man to treat her kindly is entirely alien to her. She wants to trust Nick, but she is not sure what to think about her growing dependence on him.
Cassidy excels at putting together a truly action-packed plot. As Nick struggles to find the proof he needs to put David away forever, the villain draws perilously close to his goal of finding Juliette. The thrill of the chase in this novel is well-paced and it is very exciting to read. While it is clear that Juliette was a battered wife, the author does not dwell upon the past violence, but instead focuses on the present action, a fact that makes this book read smoothly and also makes it less harrowing than it could have been.
However, much of the story focuses upon some rather over-the-top plotting. David is not your ordinary garden-variety psychopath, but instead is a highly intelligent, very wealthy, master villain. He exudes so much pure evil, however, that one cannot help wondering what once drew Juliette to him. In addition, much of the plot depends upon the judge’s decision to let David out on bail following the preschool hostage-taking incident. I can suspend a certain amount of disbelief, but that’s asking a little much.
The relationship between Juliette and Nick is initially quite believeable. There is certainly chemistry between the two, but it is primarily a relationship of victim and protector. Nick is an engaging hero and is very thoughtful of Juliette and her son, but, Juliette, however, is more nondescript. She seems to have the label “victim” tattooed on her forehead, and given the nature of the plot, it is often difficult to see who she is underneath it. In addition, because of Juliette’s victim-hood, the progression of her relationship with Nick doesn’t seem to make sense. The suspense plot is quite intense and, in light of that, it just seems as though Juliette’s relationship with Nick moves along a little too quickly.
Still, over-the-top plotting aside, Cassidy delivers what turned out a very exciting read. Those who like to see a believable balance of romance to suspense in their thrillers may be disappointed here. However, those looking for a truly dark villain and a lot of action will find some good moments.
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