Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Evil Without A Face" by Jordan Dane

Jessica Beckett is a bounty hunter haunted by her past as an abused child. Her obsession with criminal Lucas Baker inadvertently alerts her to the activities of a secret criminal organisation. Meanwhile, young Nikki Archer has sought to escape what she thinks of as a rotten life with her mother in Alaska. Her on-line chats have not been with another teenager, but with a criminal mastermind who likes to kidnap young teenage girls. Nikki's uncle, Payton Archer, who used to play for the NFL, vows to find out who is responsible. This eventually leads to crossing paths with Jessica, and chasing down an evil, global corporation.

There's nothing wrong with "Evil Without A Face" that I can actually put my finger on. But for some reason, it never really gripped me, and it took a long time for me to finish the book. I was never compelled to pick it up during a spare moment and eventually had to force myself to finish it. As far as romantic suspense goes, this falls on the grittier side, as it deals with the young teenage girls who fall victim to online predators. Jessica herself has survived a childhood in which she was kidnapped by a pedophile. The book (perhaps thankfully) doesn't delve into too much detail regarding Jessica's past, but it does give the character a bit of an edge.

In fact, the book is largely plot-driven and action-based, as Jessica and her new employee, the mysterious Seth Harper, get tangled up in far more than they bargained for. The book is more than half-way through before Jessica and Payton even meet, which is highly unusual for this genre. In a way, it's refreshing, but it also makes what follows a bit more troublesome. "Evil Without A Face" suddenly transforms from a not-bad thriller into a typical romantic-suspense bore. Jessica and Payton are attracted to each other. They inherently sense something in one another. Blah blah blah. The cliches come thick and fast, which includes the introduction of a covert alliance that operates in taking out evil global conspiracies. How convenient.

I'm sick of covert operations in this genre. It's tired. It's overdone. The introduction of Alexa Malone, an agent for this operation, clearly screams "sequel!" As does Seth Harper's mysterious past. I imagine they're the central characters for the next two instalments of what the book jacket calls the "Sweet Justice" series. Blech. I appreciated the fact that "Evil Without A Face" was more thriller than romance, but would have preferred it continue in one vein, rather than abruptly shifting tones halfway through.

"Cold As Ice" by Anne Stuart

Genevieve Spenser is a snotty, uptight lawyer who boards the boat of billionaire Harry Van Dorn to get some papers signed. Little does she know, he is a maniac bent on world domination (or something). He wants to stage seven tragedies that will send the stock market plunging and allow him to make a few more billion (or something).

Also on board is Peter Jensen, who is supposed to be Harry's personal assistant, but is actually an assassin for The Committee, who want to stop Harry before he can carry out his deadly plans. His directive is that Genevieve become collateral damage so that the mission can go off without a hitch. However, sparks are flying between the two, and he finds himself torn between his duty and his libido.

Considering what a rampaging bitch Genevieve is, Peter would have been better off letting her get blown up in the boat. It's been a while since I came across such an unlikeable, insolent, nerve-grating whinebucket. Seriously, she behaves as if she just celebrated her thirteenth birthday. But she's great in the sack, so Peter is happy to risk the fate of the world to keep her safe and keep on bedding her.

Your book is in trouble when the most entertaining character is your villian. Harry Van Dorn is supposed to be sick and depraved, but he's far more interesting than Peter or Genevieve. I couldn't help but wish that Harry might achieve all his goals and live to fight on in an inevitable follow-up (I believe this is part of a series involving agents working for The Committee). He's certainly preferable to spending time in the company of Genevieve. Then again, getting your fingernails forcibly removed whilst watching a Katherine Heigl movie would probably be better than spending time with a woman like Genevieve.

"Cold As Ice" has no real plot to speak of - Harry's plans are ambiguous at best - but has a few sprinklings of action and moves at an easy enough pace. Better characterisation may have helped in overcoming the serious personality flaws of its central protagonists.