Book reviews à la bookworm...The good, the bad, and everything in between.
Eight months after saving her life in Afghanistan, and finally home himself, James Walker feels it's time he made his move on Beth Garcia, the woman he's been salivating over while they were deployed together. A rock-climbing weekend is pretty harmless as far as seduction goes, but he'll be killing two birds with one stone—make a pass (or more) on Beth and avoid his sister's wedding.
Then a call from his younger sister comes, and James knows it's all over. He'll have to go to the wedding, and brave his parents...But maybe, if Beth tags along, say, as his fiancée, she could keep the vultures at bay, and he could still make a pass (or more).
This story starts with the ambush in Dangerous Territory when Beth is injured and James saves her life. But there any similarities between the books end. While the aforementioned first book in this series had everything going on for it—tight plot, great writing, good pacing, great characters, danger, nail-biting action...this one didn't.
I loved the first and last few chapters, but it was everything in between that dropped the ball. From the voice, the drop in pacing, and even the narrative style in some scenes, it looked like this book was written by two different authors. The beginning and the end were well-structured, well-paced, the characters were likeable and adult-like, while in the middle it all came apart at the seams.
Beth, the strong, confident, self-assured Army Sergeant of a heroine, apparently shed all that with her uniform the minute she stepped foot in James' parent's house, and started acting like a teenager, hiding things, doubting things, not asking questions and not talking (which seems to be the crucial thing in this story) to the hero, who also suffered a slight character transplant in the middle of the story.
The second biggest problem was, as mentioned before, the feel the majority of the chapters were written by someone else. In Dangerous Territory Emmy Curtis excelled in making her characters shine both individually and as a "couple" while under a stressful situation. It was the same in the first chapter of this book (still set in Afghanistan), but as the stress of a danger zone wore off and then disappeared all together with the change of setting, the great writing blinked off. And only reappeared in the end (once again set in Afghanistan only not under a stressful situation), where the two leads once more became their "true" characters from the beginning of the story. I loved those two chapters set in Afghanistan (the last one being my favorite, because it was just so sweeeet). I wanted more of such well-written chapters, damn it!
And the third problem, also as mentioned before, was the pacing. Any slower and it would've been going backwards. The book was rife with fillers. Dialogue, inner musing and dialogues, scenes...The sex scenes were particularly filler-ish. I admit I liked Beth and James better when in the throes of their unresolved sexual tension, poised on the precipice only to be interrupted (or as James so eloquently put it "cockblocked by his own sister"). As soon as they made the plunge (literally), their "love" scene became formulaic without much feeling, just two characters going through the motions. And it got from bad to worse. Once the sex scenes become dull and boring, and you end up skimming the pages or skipping them altogether just to get things moving a little faster, you know you're in trouble.
This story would definitely have worked better as a novella, by keeping the beginning and end, trimming the unnecessary fillers, tightening the plot (the mystery sub-plot was so diluted by the mundane going on around it, I almost forgot there was a mystery) and keeping the "original" characters.
Its length was this story's killer.