I’m so disappointed, I hardly know what to say. After having devoured Lauren Bach’s first book, Lone Rider, I looked forward to reading Slow Hands. The story began fine, and I remained enthused. But by the middle of the book, I was shaking my head in confusion. Could the same person have written both books? I began slowly – almost against my will – to accept that something was wrong with Slow Hands and hoped the second half would fulfill my expectations. But things only got worse and I finally had to accept the truth.
Ten years ago, town bad boy bastard Alec Dempsey was in love. He’d asked his girlfriend, Keira Morgan, to marry him, but the day after she accepted, he left for work . . . and kept on driving. Alec was twenty; Keira was eighteen. He fled his hometown of Freedom, Arkansas and the love of his life without explanation. Now, he’s an agent for ATF, and his next assignment brings him full circle, back to Freedom, and to Keira.
Keira Morgan was devastated when Alec left. They’d been together (and having sex) since she was sixteen. She’d told everybody in the small town that she and Alec were to be married, then had to live down the humiliation when he abandoned her. Keira moved on with her life, but her heart never quite healed. When the FBI contacts her to say a man who attacked, beat, and tried to rape her five years ago would be getting out on parole soon and is returning to Freedom, she learns Alec will be returning as well, to protect her.
Except that’s a lie. Nobody here is telling the truth. Alec tells Keira he’s with the FBI rather than ATF because Arkansas is still a big moonshine state (apparently) and her grandfather hates revenuers. Keira tells Alec she’s seeing another man, Reggie Reeves, one of her employees (Keira is an electrical contractor), but she’s really not. Alec allows Keira to think he’s seeing Scarlet Chambeau, Freedom’s local siren, but he’s not. The FBI tells Keira that Ian Griggs (the bad guy) is after her grandfather, Willis, when Griggs is really after Keira. The FBI also tells Alec they want the money Griggs hid five years ago ($2 million), but what they really want is the crime boss with whom Griggs is associated. And Alec. He’s in town all right, but not to protect Keira so much. His assignment is to follow Griggs in the hopes of recovering the stolen money, but more, to find a connection to the crime boss.
Alec Dempsey turns out to be one of the least competent agents I’ve ever read. He spends more time lusting after Keira and dealing with Scarlet than he does doing his job. Griggs has openly threatened Keira. Her apartment has been broken into, she is run off the road and nearly killed, Griggs gets her cornered her in a graveyard and threatens to rape her, a cohort of his leaves disgusting calling cards on her doorstep, yet Alec does nothing about any of these things. He suspects Griggs may be getting out of the half-way-house at night, but not once does Alec, who is supposed to keep Griggs under surveillance, watch the house after dark to see if the guy is getting out or not. And the local sheriff doesn’t do it either. Hello?
Keira leaves her bedroom window unlocked even after she knows somebody has been in her apartment. Not only does she not lock it in the future, she doesn’t get new security locks for it, and Alec not only does not insist on that, he uses her unlocked window to enter her apartment whenever he feels like it! Alec tells Keira that in order to convince Griggs and everybody else in town that he has returned to reconcile with her (so they won’t suspect he’s a planted undercover agent), that they must feign a relationship in public, then he spends almost all his time with Scarlet, who has the hots for him. He never tells her to shove off, even when she’s at her most irritating, but spends time with her, drives her home, goes to the picnic with her, and allows her to manipulate him. This made no sense to me at all.
In fact, nothing about Slow Hands made sense to me. Keira realizes she still loves Alec. They have sex (lots of sex; lots and lots of sex; can’t walk the next day sex), and Alec is obviously devoted to Keira. But when Scarlet appears and makes one totally catty remark, Keira becomes furious and tells Alec she never wants to see him again. This was not only out of character, it was manipulative – a device inserted into the plot simply to keep Alec and Keira apart.
The second half of the book is written like a slap-dash first draft. Short, choppy sentences, stereotypical characters, trite dialogue. Whatever suspense had been built up over the course of the story was wasted on the brief and confusing climax. Strings are left untied. Characters behave stupidly. I so did not want this book to be “bad”; I did not want to give this book an F. But as I wrote this review, I realized just how little I liked the book; but in fact, I didn’t like it. At all.
I recently read an article where publishers have stated they want writers to write faster. Crank out more books per year. Build name recognition, and so forth. If that’s true, readers are in trouble. Quality will surely suffer and I suspect that may be what happened here. Lauren Bach proved she has what it takes with Lone Rider but Slow Hands has the feel of a rush job. It descends into TSTL actions by its characters. Almost every character is straight from central casting. Scarlet is one big stereotype. Willis is the kindly but eccentric grandfather. Fanny is the hot hairdresser. Griggs is the foul-mouthed bad guy. There are no original or properly fleshed-out characters in the entire book. By the end of the book, I didn’t even like Alec or Keira! Alec’s one-note song about leaving because he had nothing to offer Keira, got old about the hundred time I read it. Keira makes one stupid move after another and puts herself in danger constantly.
The sex, while late getting started, takes up much of the second half of the book. It is beyond hot, but it didn’t do a thing for me. It was a bit raunchy and since, by that point, I didn’t care about Alec or Keira, it was like watching a porno movie where you’re simply viewing an act. The author uses all the “bad” words in this book, and while I’m not easily shocked, they seemed out of place and forced.
And speaking of stereotypes: I’ve never been to Arkansas, but according to this book, moonshine is still a major state-wide hobby, bowling and wrestling are popular pastimes where even the ladies scream their guts out, and men don’t seem to mind it if the women they love wear shirts in public so tight their nipples show. When Keira and Fanny end up on TV during a wrestling championship, Alec is in a bar watching with his buds:
“Keira got her fair share of camera time. The tight T-shirt didn’t hide her curves, and her firm, flat stomach was sleek and sexy as hell. Alec noticed her nipples stabbing through the T-shirt, knew he wasn’t the only admirer.”Like, what a creep!
After reading Lone Rider, I was expecting much better than this.