Shadow Woman: A Novel
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121 of 128 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2013
I couldn't wait to read this book, a woman who doesn't recognize her face? That sounds amazing. And the first few chapters of this book were compelling, well written and sucked me straight into the plot. This book was living up to my expectations. A lot of reviews talk about the lack of romance, but I actually enjoyed that most of the story played out before Xavier and Lizzy met up again. But once they did meet, I feel the book lost momentum. Fast. The last 5 chapters left so much to be desired that I almost quit reading...it might just be me, but I didn't feel any of the excitement or urgency that the first 5 chapters held. The villain of the story (or is it villains?) didn't seem fleshed out enough and I really don't understand the motivation behind some of the actions in the book.

In fact, in retrospect, I was so disinterested in the outcome of the book, I can't remember who the bad guys were or why they were the bad guys! I feel like the publisher said "You only have 336 pages for your next novel. Go." Consequently, since too many pages were spent on Lizzy and Xavier separately, once their stories merged there was nothing left - hence the (IMO) unsatisfying ending.

I don't mind that Linda Howard (why doesn't she have a dedicated website, anyway?) has moved away from category romance novels, her suspense and mystery always comes across as well thought out and she delivers it with panache. I own every single one of her books and Shadow Woman will likely remain in my personal library. I just wish there was a little more substance and maybe another 5 chapters at the end that are just as gripping as the first. Instead I'm left feeling a little lost and let-down now that I'm finished; I guess I'll fill this void by reading Shades of Twilight. Again.
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90 of 100 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2013
First let me say that I am a big LH fan. Having said that I found myself disappointed by this book, Well written, yes, with lots of mystery and suspense. But very little romance and that not until the book is almost over. I would like a little interaction between the hero/heroine. Both were strong characters and well portrayed, but absolutely no chance to see any sparks. Don't call it a romance, call it a mystery and you wont be disappointed.
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62 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2013
From the moment Lizette Henry looks in the mirror one morning and doesn't recognize her face, this story begins a rather odd and bizarre journey to distinguish between her current existence and an alternate reality. Every time Lizette has thoughts of another point in time that is inconsistent with her present lifestyle, she gets intense, debilitating pains in her head that level her. She can remember beyond three years ago, can remember her childhood up to five years ago, but cannot account for that two-year gap.

There's an interesting prologue that provides a clue as to what she may have been involved in but it's still murky. As Lizette starts to remember more things about what was obviously a former self, things start getting dicey and she realizes her life is now at risk. Meanwhile, a black ops agent named Xavier is monitoring the people monitoring Lizette and clearly has her back.

I was really engaged in this story, intrigued by this strange puzzle and followed Lizette's thought process as she struggled to figure out what was going on and what happened to those two missing years and why she now has a new face. She was clearly a project being overseen by those in the covert world but typical of those agencies, it wasn't always clear who the good and bad guys were.

What detracted from the story was part of what made it interesting in the beginning. It just continued for too long without interaction between the characters. Almost 80% of the story plays out in the heads of Lizette and Xavier, separately, and it took too long for the central scheme to be revealed in the story. I found myself just wishing someone would tell me, even considered jumping to the end to put me out of my misery. By the time Xavier and Lizette connect, the story's almost over, not leaving a whole lot of time for any credible romance between the two.

The story is interesting, the intrigue compelling, but the lack of character interplay and a weak romance bog it down somewhat. I would still recommend the book because it kept me engaged and the ending was a bit clever, if not terribly exciting.

(I received an ARC from NetGalley)
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2013
Shadow Woman is not recommended. As a die hard of Linda Howard, Shadow Woman is the biggest disappointment I've had from her. For the past 5 years Linda Howard's books have become progressivly worse. Shadow Woman was as boring as watching paint dry. There was too much story telling and not enough dialogue. The plot was a good one if only the characters had some meaninful dialogue with each other. Miss Howard has lost her touch, she is a great Romance Book writer and she should go back to where her true talent lies - Romance with some Suspense. Mr. Perfect, Dream Man, All the Queen's Men, The Mackenkies, Heart of Fire, Midnight Rainbow, Diamond Bay are all books that hooked me. Write some more books like these Ms. Howard.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
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.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2013
I've always enjoyed Linda Howard's books and this one had such a promising start. A woman wakes up one morning and doesn't recognize her own face! Wow and woopdedoo...here we go with a great read. Oh so not the case. As the story progressed I kept thinking that, had I been behind it all I would have just put a bullet in the young lady's head to start with...why go to all the trouble the five 'baddies' went to...for what? I can't recommend this book...it seemed to me that Ms. Howard started it, then sat at her computer staring at a blank screen and wondered what to do next. What she should have done was hit the delete button.
This book is not worth reading...it certainly is NOT worth 13.99 for an e-book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2013
I listened to this book on CD and have officially removed Linda Howard from my "must read" list. Forget about cramming the solution in the last few pages; why not try cramming the romance into the last few chapters? There is almost no interaction between the supposed lovers aside from a brief encounter in a retail establishment that must have lasted all of 2 minutes in real time and some dream sex. They don't even get face to face again until Disc 7. There's only 8 discs in the whole book. Complete disappointment and waste of time.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2013
Sorry I bought a hardback copy when the book first came out. Love Linda Howard books but wish I had kept my money on this one.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2013
No Spoilers -- I keep it pretty vague. Much as I love Linda Howard, SHADOW WOMAN fell a bit flat, even though there are some great bits and pieces. First, I share what I see as some weaknesses of the book. Then, I discuss the better bits. Finally, I compare it with other books by Linda Howard -- characters and plot points that came to mind as I was reading Shadow Woman.

-- Weaker Aspects --

Xavier and Lizzy don't spend any time together until 76% into the story -- not counting several sexy dreams and a fun -- but woefully brief -- encounter in Walgreens. If it weren't for that single scene, and Xavier's POV about Lizzy, I might have bailed, because I like dialogue -- and I EXPECT dialogue from Linda Howard. So, when they finally hook up, 3/4ths into the story after only one conversation, Howard expects me to just "believe" in their everlasting love. And I kinda did. Sorta. ツ

The mind-wiping plot is improbable and Lizzy's past is cloaked in obscurity -- Howard remains utterly cryptic for too long. At first, I was interested and absorbed, trying to figure out what happened to Lizzy, but Howard wrote the most opaque prologue imaginable, making it nearly impossible to decipher the back-story. However, I rather enjoyed trying, and I got some parts right!

It's fairly slow at first. Solid action begins at about 40% into the story. I loved Lizzy's intelligent assessment of each new situation. However, all too soon, the pace slowed down to a crawl again, with too much time devoted to Lizzy's desperate flight into Virginia, on dusty roads under a summer sun. The details of eating and peeing and shopping went on too long, even though I enjoyed the various means of transportation Lizzy used to escape. ツ

★★★ Better Bits ★★★

There were some nice twists in the plot. One character surprised me. And there were some fun scenes, like when Lizzy vandalizes Xavier's motorcycle, thinking he's out to kill her. He is proud of her, cuz she's fighting back (echoes of Death Angel: A Novel). Great dialogue between X and his team mate, when X calls for a tow truck.

Also, throughout the book, right from the start, Xavier shows his devotion to Lizzy. I wasn't sure if he was operating out of guilt or love at first, but he was always there, watching over her. And when he finally hooked up with her again, he was passionate, protective, and tender. For example, Lizzy is sad and insecure, because her features have been changed a little. ♥ "I like your face," he said softly. "It doesn't matter. I liked your face before, and I like it now. You're still you." ♥

But WHY did Lizzy feel so guilty about what happened four years ago? Her guilt rang false to me, but to each his own. Maybe she is sensitive.

★★★★★★★ Cross-Book Character Comparison ★★★★★★★

SHADOW WOMAN brought to mind some of Howard's best-loved characters. For example, Lizzy reminded me of Grace St. John, in Son of the Morning. Like Grace, Lizzy had to piece together a bunch of clues to figure out what was going on. Like Grace, Lizzy spent a good portion of the book on the run, living a hand to mouth existence, going from pit stop to pit stop.

SHADOW WOMAN has very little dialogue -- and only a portion of it occurred between Xavier and Lizzy. However, there were a FEW glimpses of the bold, sexy banter I loved in Mr. Perfect, with Sam and Jaime. I especially enjoyed the scene when Xavier "accidentally" bumps into Lizzy in Walgreens and gets a lesson in Shampoo 101. ツ

Lizzy is exhausted, hungry, confused, and hurting. Killers are after her, and she has no idea WHY. Resting in her sleazy motel, she's ready to break down and sob. BUT, like Angie in Prey: A Novel, she refuses to yield to helplessness. The only difference in how Howard portrays the two women is that Angie had to outwit two types of psychos -- one with four feet. Also, in Prey, Dare totally adores Angie's ♥-shaped derrière. Xavier has the same fetish: ♥ ♥ ♥ There. There...Her back was to him...No doubt it was her, though; he knew that mane of dark hair, the erect set of her shoulders, the way she carried her head, and holy ship, the inverted-heart curve of her asp. Lizzy--in person, after years of only hearing her voice or seeing photos. ♥ ♥ ♥

SHADOW WOMAN reminded me repeatedly of Death Angel: A Novel. Here, we had Xavier chasing Lizzy on a motorcycle, while in DA, Simon pursued Drea in a truck. In this book, we had Xavier willing to watch over poor brain-wiped Lizzy for the rest of his life, if necessary. In DA, we had Simon willing to take care of potentially brain-dead Drea for ever.

All told, a captivating story, if slow at times and lacking dialogue. I also appreciate the careful editing, the lack of typos, and the non-gratuitous and sparing inclusion of cuss words and profanity. ツ

***
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2013
I was very disappointed with this book. Premise looked interesting and the 1st couple of chapters were really good but I hated that Lizette and Xavier spent most of the book apart. And the ending was very anti-climactic. No big confrontation, no suspense. Just over.
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