I liked this book, so it’s really unfortunate that I chose it not realizing it was the third title in a series. This was unfortunate because Rush could have been a great book if I hadn’t spent so much time confused and wishing I’d read the two preceding titles in the proper order.
Five years ago, firefighters Jessica Fury and Quaid Legend are enjoying their newlywed status when a tragic accident shatters their world. Responding to a chemical fire at a governmental facility, Quaid is in the worst possible place when canisters of an unknown substance explode, killing him and injuring the rest of his team. Inconsolable, Jessica descends into a mind-numbing spiral of addiction and one-night stands, trying to get over the love she knows she’ll never find again.
Now, Jessica has managed to pull herself together and has established herself as a successful career lobbyist in Washington D.C. When her former fire-fighter teammates show up in her office after an explosion at a different governmental facility, Jessica doesn’t want to hear what they have to say. Her sobriety rests on a knife’s edge, and she’s done her best to ignore the strange paranormal abilities that she – and the other team members – developed after exposure to the mystery chemical that killed her husband. The last thing she wants to hear is wild stories about how Quaid might not be dead after all.
They show her a coin that had supposedly been buried with Quaid but was found in the deserted cell of a prisoner who has now disappeared. When Jessica holds the coin, her ability to make a connection to its owner allows her to travel to where this prisoner – called Q – is being held in a remote shack in Utah. He doesn’t look exactly like her husband, but something in his eyes and the way he kisses her sparks a hope in Jessica that she can barely stand to feel. She reluctantly agrees to help her friends stage a rescue. After all, she reasons, even if this Q isn’t really Quaid, he’s still a man being held against his will by malicious people.
For the last five years, Q has been a prisoner and a lab rat. He has no memories of his past, no idea who he really is, and no hope that he will ever get free of the people who use him as a human weapon and think nothing of the physical and mental torture they put him through to force him to perform his unique abilities. Often drugged into submission, his only solace is from the woman who visits him in his dreams. When he’s rescued by a group of people claiming to be his friends, he doesn’t know whom to trust. He’s especially wary of Jessica, who is the living embodiment of the woman in his dreams. He thinks maybe she’s just another weapon that will be turned against him if he reveals how much she means to him.
I loved the premise of this book: a tortured hero manages to escape imprisonment and must crawl his way back to the life and love that he’d lost. For the most part, Rush lived up to my expectations. Q is definitely a tortured hero who struggles to figure out who is friend and who is foe. Even after Q is rescued, he’s still a lose cannon unable to trust anyone and likely to go off at the slightest provocation. As such, he’s like a ticking time bomb, which added an extra element of suspense to the story. While I found Jessica’s initial wallowing and dramatic negativity a bit tedious, her slowly blossoming hope that maybe Q is, indeed, Quaid came across as a realistic reaction. Too, the couple’s realization that no matter who Q turned out to be, he would never be the same carefree man that Quaid had once been was bittersweet.
Unfortunately, without having read the first two entries of the series, I was thoroughly confused by so many aspects that only sheer willpower kept me pushing through. The story of Q’s imprisonment and escape and his torturous climb back to sanity kept me completely entertained, but I glazed over so much stuff that referred to other books that I felt like I missed a whole layer of story. Characters and organizations and prior events are mentioned without any explanation, leaving me with a lot of holes in the backstory that I never managed to fill.
One major plot component regarding a mission Q was involved with was left completely hanging. I know that there are more entries in this series to come, but this was less of a cliffhanger and more like a lost plot thread. I have to wonder if I’d read the other books if this subplot might have made more sense.
Too, the whole paranormal aspect didn’t work for me. I never managed to get a handle on who had what ability – again, perhaps a result of not having read the prior books – and some of the things Jessica and Q could do didn’t make any sense. Jessica’s moods affect the weather, and she can sort of transport mentally but also physically if she meditates, while Q can transport but only if he’s unconscious, and he has all kinds of super-enhanced senses…it was all very confusing. Everyone’s abilities seemed random and disconnected. I’m not a big fan of books that give characters a wild array of supernatural abilities, from telekinesis to mind-reading to the ability to physically transport from one place to another. Such unlimited possibilities allow an easy out for any specific problem that might crop up because any given character can conveniently have a supernatural solution. I need my paranormal world to have very specific parameters in which the characters operate with common limits to what they can do, and the reaction these people have to the chemical explosion was simply to broad for me to buy.
On a smaller note but a close cousin to the couple that has inappropriate hot, steamy sex while on the run from bad guys, Q and Jessica engage in some poorly-timed relationship building that left me rolling my eyes. While in the midst of a highly dangerous, highly time-sensitive rescue situation, they take time out to have a deep, meaningful conversation about the status of their relationship. I wanted to reach into the pages and shake them both.
I really do regret that I hadn’t read the other Phoenix Rising books before taking on this one, because while you can read Rush as a standalone, I certainly don’t recommend it. If you’ve already read Fever and Blaze, I would wager that you will definitely like this next entry in the series.