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A Good Book But It Wasn't What I Wanted It To Be
on January 2, 2013
It was a good book. I completely realize that saying the book isn't what I wanted it to be is ridiculous. The book is what it is and it IS a good book. But, I'm a lifetime Linda Howard fan and at least two of her books are on my all-time romance top ten and I compulsively re-read her books when I don't have others to read. And, in my opinion, this book is lacking some of the fabulous Linda Howard voodoo. So, I expect some of her other lifetime readers will feel that parts of this book are lacking. That while the book was an enjoyable read, it just left me a little disappointed. But, personal preference aside, I think a lot of readers will enjoy the book.
It was an enjoyable read. Linda Howard has a fabulous writing style. She writes quick and snappy books. She has a pretty impressive talent building a mystery and unfolding that with suspense. Her romances are usually just fabulous. This one was pretty good. The hero and the heroine were well matched, personality-wise. And they had some chemistry and there was some heat. I thought the set-up of the book was original and definitely had some intriguing moments. The book had a less than linear plot-line which was interesting. A lot of the crucial plot twists happened before the narrative started and the book unfolds in a suspenseful and mysterious way with some smart foreshadowing and misdirection. The reader really doesn't guess what is happening or how all the pieces fit together until the very end.
The main thing I found lacking was that the juiciest stuff all happened before the story or was outside the narrative. The mystery- I'm not going to spoil it- was pretty fantastic stuff (and I'm using fantastic in the wildly unbelievable sense of the word). I'm not claiming it was bad or ridiculous- my willing suspension of disbelief was open to the plot-line. But, it was really, really fantastic and the book would have been a lot better read if I had more background on the mystery. Because the book was structured around a climactic event that happened before the book ever began and it was the core mystery of the book, information was revealed to the readers in tiny dribs and drabs until the very end. At that point, I just wanted a lot more information on the events that started this whole book's story. It was like reading "The Bourne Identity" but never getting the part where we figured out Jason Bourne's past. Or his identity was briefly summarized in a couple of paragraphs. The past was an intricate and vital part of this book's story and we got so very little of it except in quick summarizing. Without the past, this was a chase and hide story which is fine. But, I would have sacrificed some of Lizzy's confusion and Xavier's plotting to allow time and room for more of the mystery from before the book.
I was disappointed in the romance to the extent that we really didn't get enough depth of character. The way I read it, two people fell in love, were totally separated, and they got back together. All we got to read was the part where they got back together- really together while overcoming the time they were apart and the fact that she didn't exactly remember him all that well. Yes, the fact that he protected her so devotedly is romantic. Yes, the fact that she finally remembered him to an extent is romantic. Their first, real meeting was pretty sexy. All those things were great and good. I felt, though, that there was something lacking in the relationship. It just felt like all the good stuff happened before the book even started. There was no negotiating an attraction/relationship or adjustments and conflicts in a new relationship. Our heroine went from terrified of the hero to instantly and immediately remembering their past and immediately moving to a place of long held trust and love. The reader didn't really get anything of the process of falling in love or the attraction or building chemistry. It felt flat and it was lacking some magic.
I was a little disappointed in the character development. It is the same complaint as before in a different aspect. Most of the important character development happened before the book started. On the plus side, Lizzy is a great character. In this book, she is confused and a little traumatized but feisty, and resourceful and a burgeoning bad-ass. But, so much of the book is about who she once was, before the book started and before she lost her memory. Her personality was not static- it kept see-sawing between who she was and who she is. I'm not sure that I had a real firm lock on who she was as a character- rather, I felt like we got a look at her in that snap-shot of time only. That she would keep changing and eventually get to a place where she balanced the two personalities- but we never saw that. As for Xavier, he was a set of attributes rather than a fully formed character to me. Now, he was a super spy so being guarded and mysterious made sense. Except, the readers got to listen in on his thoughts so I would have appreciated a more well-rounded view of Xavier. He was privately and excessively loyal and devoted, smart, scary competent, and a stone cold killer in the service of his country. Great. But, I wouldn't have minded a little more. And, I would have loved it if the reader had more time with the characters actually together. Too much of the book was their separate activities and you are fully half-way through the book before their personal relationship takes a front-seat. Yes, the plot was good and their separate activities were interesting but I would just have loved more of them together to get a feel for the relationship between them. It would have been a great boost to the character development to see the two interacting more and negotiating a relationship.
Those are my three main complaints. I'll stress that the book was pretty good. I liked it. I just wanted a lot more out of it and it left me pretty hungry for all the stuff that wasn't there. I thought Linda Howard has all this fabulous exposition and back-story that was interesting and crazy juicy and it was barely used past a sentence or two. But, I do recommend the book. I would warn her big fan's to go in with moderate expectations so they won't be disappointed. Some won't be at all disappointed and find the book is a rocking good time. Others may feel there were some parts that were lacking? All in all, it was a good book but I just wanted more.