- File Size: 1992 KB
- Print Length: 169 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publication Date: February 5, 2018
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0795D15MZ
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,798,159 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Backlash: An Unintended Consequences Romantic Suspense Kindle Edition
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But in Jessica Dale's new romantic suspense series, the villains come from a darker place. Her villains are the result of her protagonists' own backgrounds—their genetics combined with failures on the part of those who were either unwilling or incapable of coping with or even complicit in contributing to their developing flaws.
In book one, Payback, James doesn't understand why he's unable to allow romantic desire to develop into the intimacy of a real relationship. "Herein lay the path to heartbreak. Let a lover know your secrets and she'd use them against you—once the lust faded—to rip at your soul." Although he's loved his best friend Annaleise for twenty years, he never allowed himself to think of her as anything but a sister. His disapproving parents kept him at an emotional distance before their deaths. But despite that, he'd slowly come far enough to develop a small circle of friendships, and of course there was always Annaleise and her husband to provide emotional support. Until, that is, the day he walked into his house expecting to find his friends waiting, and found a bloodbath.
With nobody left, gaps in his own memory making him doubt even himself, James unwillingly turns to his new neighbor Carrie. But as we see in Backlash, she clearly has secrets of her own, and a deadly threat she's hiding from. Despite her growing feelings for James, Carrie knows she will always put her love for her son above her new feelings for James. But her fear is that she'll never get beyond the mistrust of her own feelings and reactions. "It's not that I don't trust you. I don't trust myself to know who to trust." Both of them are walking wounded, shattered by a lifetime of hurt. As they slowly reveal the source of their pain, they also come together to save each other from the evil that stalks each of them.
While I was reading James' story in Payback, I admired the way his broken character unfolded and—with Carrie's help—slowly began to open to the possibility of healing. But at the same time, I was frustrated by the opaque nature of the evil that was clearly threatening him. Even when revealed, the villain's character remains flat and two-dimensional. Against the fragile, developing relationship between James and Carrie, and with the way James' character in particular unfolds and becomes ever more three-dimensional, this seemed a surprising disappointment. And, given that the particular expertise this author brings to her stories is the insight of a trained psychotherapist, the lack of focus on the villain's character was doubly unexpected.
It wasn't until I was well into Carrie's story in the second book, Backlash, that I started to understand. The evil that overwhelms both James and Carrie is not really the actual villain they each must ultimately face off against. The true horrors are reserved for their pasts, which have conspired to create the forces dominating their present and threatening their future. James discovers that almost every single thing he thought he knew about his past was a lie. Carrie faces physical and emotional violence from the husband she loved, loathing the damage it causes to her son until she decides the only thing she can give him is her absence. The actual villains, when they appear, are in each case two-dimensional reflections of the damage the past has done to both James and Carrie.
As each of them hides from the monster that is their past, the beauty of these short books is the way James and Carrie offer their damage to each other, forging fragile emotional bonds and frankly physical relationships that become their weapons and their potential freedom. Indeed, their physical relationship is the first step of their investment in their much more terrifying emotional relationship.
Another thing I just realized is that while there are ghosts, these aren't ghost stories, at least in the traditional sense. Instead, just as the actual villains are flat reflections of the real monsters in James and Carrie's pasts, the ghosts are reflections of the good things that the past held. And their role is to provide the protection—even if weak and transparent—that should have been the rightful love and warmth and protection each of them deserved.
I'm not a huge fan of reading author's notes, especially those at the end of a book. But in the case of each of these novelas, the end notes contain enlightening information about the issues faced by James and by Carrie. It's an unusual epilogue, but one I'll look forward to in the next book of this new series.
**I received this book from the publisher or author to expedite an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**