Trace of Fever
Trace of Fever is the second in the Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series by prolific author Lori Foster. In the preface, Ms. Foster writes the series is of “uber-alpha hunks featuring private mercenaries who are big, capable, a little dangerous and [she hopes] oh-so-sexy.” I didn’t read the first book, When You Dare and, after cringing my way through Trace of Fever, I doubt I ever will.
The hunky mercenary hero of this book is Trace Rivers, and while he certainly is big, capable, and dangerous, I didn’t find him a whit sexy. That said, he’s vastly more alluring than this tale’s heroine Priscilla Patterson. I can’t remember the last time I disliked a heroine as much as I disliked Priss. To be fair, she’s such a poorly written character — she has about four different personalities in this one book — perhaps it’s not her fault I found her whiny, stupid, self-absorbed, and often ridiculous. Halfway through the book, I found myself hoping she’d have an UEA (Unhappily Ever After) ending!
Trace and Priss meet because they both want to kill — literally — a total scum bucket named Murray Colburn. Murray, who is one of the more repulsive men I’ve met in fiction lately, has his stubby fingers in lots of nasty pies, but the worst one involves buying and selling women and girls for the human trafficking trade. Trace hates Murray because human traffickers once kidnapped Trace’s sister. (Don’t worry; she was saved by his best friend Dare in the first book in the series.) Priss hates Murray because he ruined her mother’s life. Trace is posing as a body guard for Murray so that he (Trace) can infiltrate Murray’s nasty organization and destroy Murray and all who work with him. Priss flounces into Murray’s office, tells him she’s his daughter, and claims she wants to get to know her dad. Priss and Trace quickly figure out that neither of them is on the dark side and begin to work together to take down Murray and his cartoony horrific lover Helene — known accurately as Hell.
The suspense plot in this book is isn’t awful. There’s lots of violence (Trace can beat the crap out of anyone any number of ways), several super-evil bad guys, and an obvious ending. But, human trafficking is so appalling even I, who doesn’t like gratuitous violence, didn’t mind the bad guys getting their gory due.
The love story is awful. For much of the book, Trace is a jerk and Priss is a pain in the posterior. I found their first few encounters almost unreadable. In one, Trace intimately frisks Priss just to intimidate and humiliate her. In another, Priss — having been ordered by Murray to undergo a makeover — models super slutty outfits for Trace and takes great enjoyment in sexually frustrating him. This last scene is especially egregious because Priss natters on and on about how modest she is. (And, repeatedly, on how she’s never going bare down there. TMI.) Midway through the book, the two were in love and didn’t like either of them.
As the book plods on, Trace becomes more likeable and Priss becomes less so. By page 300, she’s so brainless and selfish I found myself shaking the book, wishing I could shake some sense into her. She’s worse than a TSTL (too stupid to live) heroine. She knows her actions aren’t helpful and could put the lives of Trace and others in danger but, to self-seeking Priss, nothing matters more than “the vengeance she rightfully deserved.” I detested her and couldn’t understand why anyone, especially someone like Trace who has women throwing themselves at him on a daily basis, would fall for her.
Even more implausibly, Priss, a 24 year old, gorgeous, voluptuous, confident woman who owns and runs a sex shop, is a virgin. And, as a virgin, the first time she gets naked with a guy (Trace), she gives him a well-rendered blow job. (I guess she picked up technique tips from the movies in her store.) I didn’t find Trace’s and Priss’s sex life at all sexy. Every time they began kissing, I found myself flipping through the pages. (And I like sex scenes!)
So, to sum this story up: The hero is an overly macho male with poor taste in women. The self-indulgent heroine should be banished to bad heroine hell. The villain and villainess are so evil, they’re caricatures. The plot is violent and obvious. The sex is anti-erotic. There was really just one thing I liked about Trace of Fever: finishing it.