Run From Fear
The first two books in this series were top reads for me. I devoured them rapidly. They reignited my love of romantic suspense. They reminded me how exciting and sexy this genre can be. While I had really looked forward to the hero in this book getting his own story, I will admit that I wondered if the author could turn one of the villains of the last two books into a heroine. Unfortunately, the experiment didn’t really work for me.
Talia Vega paid for the romantic hopes of her youth by being forced to work as a rich man’s whore. By threatening to harm the young sister she loved more than anything, he assured her cooperation for any job he asked of her in his criminal empire. Talia turned state’s witness at the first opportunity, thrilled to watch the once powerful crime family implode, glad to have her own family out of the cross hairs for the first time in years. Now she is quietly rebuilding her life, embittered that she allowed dreams of love and family to take so much away from her. She concentrates on putting food on the table and putting her sister through college, determined Rosie will have a better life. She assures herself that safety and security are all she needs. Until the gifts start to appear.
Jack Brooks hates to watch women suffer. From his mom and sister to the wives of former army buddies, he can’t see a damsel in distress without wanting to be her white knight. He was glad to be able to save Talia from the nightmare she endured at the hands of her former employer. Now he just wishes she would let him in to be friend and lover. He is set to take her no as the final answer when she becomes the victim of a stalker. White knight instinct going into overdrive once more, Jack jumps at the chance to protect Talia and Rosie from whoever is threatening them. The only question is, will he be able to protect himself from the threat they present to his heart?
Some relationships just aren’t meant to be. To me it seemed obvious that Jack and Talia were one of them. As the book begins we see Talia working at Suzette’s, a bar and grill. Jack has come to throw himself before her once more and see if she will pick up on his smouldering glances and cryptic conversation and realize that he is sending her “I want a relationship” signals. Even though everyone else in the bar clearly picks up the message, Talia assures them they are wrong. She had made a play for Jack once and he turned her down. Nothing he does now will convince her that he really wants something more than to look out for her safety. Granted, he’s been doing that for years, but she figures he sees her as pathetic and weak and pities her (hence the protection). And Jack has done a stellar job of protecteting her, getting her hooked up with Gemini private security and seeing to her safety all through the trial. Talia feels it is time to cut him loose and let him have a life. But when there is a minor break-in at her house, Jack realizes just how much Talia needs him. He’s determined to stay close to her, even if it means butting heads with her at every turn.
I think that is the part that really got to me: They did butt heads at every turn. The vast majority of their conversations were Talia spitting ingratitude at him and Jack demanding the chance to protect her. Talia couldn’t accept that Jack was interested in her and Jack couldn’t man up and do the things men normally do when interested. Instead, he bossed her about and smouldered while she sulked and felt unworthy. We stayed in that holding pattern for about 170 pages. After a few tentative steps toward happiness things crash and burn after the discovery of several secrets that Jack has been keeping. He apologizes, she refuses to forgive, and we’re back on the hamster wheel we started on. This is their relationship. I couldn’t imagine any sane person calling that love.
As an individual, Jack was fine. He’d had some issues in the past but had worked through them. He had a normal life with friends and a job. Which is why his obesession with Talia only made sense in Romancelandia. Here we know that she is “the one” and he just can’t love another woman. In real life, his friends would have introduced him to some nice girl and that would have been that. In real life, he would also have known how to ask a woman out and not just smoulder at her. The secrets with the money (which came up towards the end of the book) really only work in Romancelandia too. Okay, maybe Jack wasn’t as fine as I thought, but for this novel he was downright brilliant.
Talia got on my nerves. Yes, she had had a bad experience, but her self blame reached ludicrus heights. The fact that she couldn’t be grateful and accept help when she was given it was annoying. I couldn’t quite understand her working in a bar, an easy place for a stalker to hang out. Not to add that given her experiences at the previous bar (Hide from Evil) I wouldn’t expect her to want to set foot in one again. I found myself questioning her judgement a lot and wanting Jack to take care of her because I felt she couldn’t do the job herself. That’s not what I want to feel about my heroine.
Adding to the mess is an ongoing sub-plot with Rosie and loser boyfriend Kevin. I was more than a bit surprised by that whole situation since I would have thought the problems Talia had had with her ex would have pushed Rosie towards a nice, normal guy. But no, apparently the only relationships these women understand involve them fighting constantly with their lover. I was so frustrated with them I couldn’t work up any sympathy.
The suspense plot was pulled out only when we needed a catalyst to keep the story moving. This was unfortunate because there was potential there for something interesting – we just weren’t able to explore it. I think the story as a whole suffered as a result.
The positives are that this is a good writer who does get some things right. I loved that she had Talia take fighting classes. Loved that while Talia was very protective of Rosie she let the girl live a life. It would have been easy for her not to do that. I appreciated Talia’s love for her sister. I liked that the killer was given a bit of depth. The author didn’t just rehash things from former books but gave us something new and interesting. These facts kept the book from getting a much lower grade.
I strongly recommend the first two books in this series. They are fabulous. This one, while good, didn’t quite live up to their promise. I like the author enough I will try the next few books by her. Hopefully, they will resemble Beg for Mercy and Hide from Evil more than this one.