Sniper’s Pride was about thirty pages short of a B grade review. I like Ms. Crane’s books, for the most part. I was a big fan of her Edge series and thought the Alaska Force books sounded like a good bet, made appealing by the different setting with similarly rugged heroes. And while I did like the setting and characters here, I felt the pacing of the love story was too rushed.
Mariah McKenna has lived with a severe allergy to shellfish all her life with no issues, until suddenly ‘accidentally’ consuming it twice in the space of a month. As her second hospital stay comes to an end, Mariah is coping with the thought that these might not be accidents at all. She is in the process of divorcing her emotionally abusive husband of ten years, an Atlanta politician known for his stance on family values. She’s very aware of the negative publicity this will bring David, but never thought he would resort to killing her just to avoid the stigma of a divorce. Yet the two hospital stays suggest things could be turning ugly. Heeding her gut feeling that she needs to get out of dodge, Mariah contacts the Alaska Force, a security team she’s heard of in passing. When they reply, she wastes no time packing for a cross-country adventure.
Griffin Cisneros isn’t too impressed by Mariah when he first meets her. She looks like a delicate Southern Belle on a glamping trip (that’s ‘glamorous camping’) more than a desperate woman on the run for her life. Aside from that, Griffin’s whole character is focused around being surly and self-denying. A few years ago, exhausted, he left the Marines and returned home to find he no longer fit in well with his family, and that his fiancée had moved on to his best friend. So, he moved to Alaska, where he felt the weather would suit his mood and he’d be far away from the comforts of home and women he might want relationships with. Joining Alaska Force has suited him well, giving him a band of brothers and interesting work without challenging him to re-enter the world. All of this is to say, when Mariah shows up looking like both a nuisance and a temptation, it is the last thing Griffin wants.
It can be difficult to develop a romance and suspense plot simultaneously. In the beginning, things move slowly – which I liked. We establish that Mariah is being targeted, possibly related to the fact that her soon-to-be-ex-husband is in politics and doesn’t want the stigma of a divorce. When Mariah gets to Alaska and meets Griffin, the romance plot begins to develop, but again it’s not too fast. Both Mariah and Griffin are emotionally wounded, and they need time and space to work on themselves before they’re ready for a real relationship. Coming off a bad marriage with a controlling husband, Mariah – in particular – needs the chance to feel independent and in control. Griffin does a good job of playing the part of silent supporter, protecting her from potential threats without caging her.
Unfortunately, once Mariah is comfortably established in Grizzly Harbor, things start to happen rapidly. She and Griffin are together for one night, and then immediately afterward the suspense plot ratchets up and Mariah is in danger. Not only did the intimacy feel a bit abrupt, but the way Griffin dealt with it bothered me. While Mariah has already accepted that she likes him – even loves him, maybe – he’s about ten steps behind her, only grudgingly admitting to his attraction when they jump into bed. Then once she’s endangered, he immediately realizes how much he loves her, in a sudden change of heart that left me reeling. But then after things calm down, he returns to his masochistic ways and proclaims that his life is better without a woman in it. While this makes sense on further reflection – since the declarations of love were forced out by an intense situation and not something he was really ready to accept – it nonetheless made him feel wishy-washy and annoying.
For all my criticisms, I really did enjoy Sniper’s Pride. Although the timing of the romance felt off, I enjoyed the setting of rugged Alaska juxtaposed with society-wife Mariah. Her character growth is particularly well done, definitely my favorite thing about this book. In the beginning, in Atlanta, she constantly doubts herself and has little habits like checking the mirror constantly to see if she has a single hair out of place. She also has no real friends or purpose in life. Once she shows up in Alaska, she begins making friends and living life on her own terms. The romance with Griffin fits into this change for Mariah and is also a facilitator of growth for Griffin. Although Griffin’s character isn’t as fleshed out as perhaps it should be, I do ultimately think that both characters were changed for the better by their relationship, which is sometimes all you can ask for in a good romance.
I would recommend Sniper’s Pride to fans of the author and/or series and anyone interested in a story about personal growth after hardship.