The Ideal Man
The difference in price between mass market paperbacks and hard covers is rather remarkable. Given that I rarely buy books new, even at $7.99, the idea of paying full price for a hardcover makes me wince. Julie Garwood’s newest contemporary romantic suspense, The Ideal Man, is a hardcover release, and in my opinion, not worth the $26.95 price tag.
This is not to say the story is terribly bad; it isn’t. Dr. Ellie Sullivan is a child prodigy trauma surgeon who happens to witness the shooting of an FBI agent during an operation that goes bad. The criminals that the FBI had hoped to apprehend that day, Cal and Erika Landry, are known arms dealers that have thus far managed to evade jail time by eliminating the witnesses testifying against them — either by threats, or violence.
Ellie didn’t actually get a good enough look to testify, but after the police intercept a hit man in her hospital’s emergency room, FBI agent Max Daniels doesn’t want to take any chances, so he follows Ellie to her hometown in South Carolina, to protect her. Ellie is reluctantly home for her sister’s wedding — to Ellie’s ex-fiancé — when the last time she saw either of them was when she found them in bed together. Another complication: a violent stalker from her past has gone into hiding.
I mostly liked Ellie and Max. It felt a bit trite for Ellie to be a child prodigy; she could have been a great character without being The Best- gorgeous, a math genius, a fantastic surgeon. The stories about her getting private tutoring from college professors before she hit puberty were overkill. Other than that, though, she was a realistic character and a likable one. She and Max do have chemistry, and he’s a good if unoriginal character.
A lot is going on in this book. Between the contract out on Ellie’s life and the stalker, this book has plot enough for two novels, but half-asses them both. Neither storyline is fully realized, though they both have some potential. There is also a tacked-on secondary romance that, until the last 2 pages, felt more like the set-up for a second novel. I wish it was given its own novel, as it could have made a compelling read that way.
The biggest problem I had, though, was with the writing. There wasn’t anything intrinsically wrong about it, no convoluted or choppy sentences nor stilted dialogue. However, the narration fell flat. It was monotonous and matter-of-fact in a way that took any suspense out of action scenes, or any romance out of love scenes. I won’t go quite so far as to say that the prose was lifeless, but it could have used a heavy dose of energy injected into it.
The Ideal Man was a quick read. It didn’t drag, and kept me moderately entertained. But that’s about all I can say about it.