I gotta say, with all the hoopla about this book having a hero who had sex with both men and women to get the job done (so to speak), it wasn’t very exciting. I guess with all the rave reviews and stuff, I was expecting to be blown away, but I was really more underwhelmed more than anything. While I was fascinated by the hero who was as “cold as ice” and was able to control every facet of his emotional responses, I just had to roll my eyes over the Lex Luthor-like villain (and I’m a huge comic book fan) and the TSTL heroine. In the past, while I was blown away by Stuart’s heroes, I’ve never been impressed by any of her heroines. They’re either so naïve that they must have fallen off of a turnip truck or so freakishly stubborn that you have to wonder if they’re being deliberately obtuse for the sake of contrast. This particular heroine spends a good three-quarters of the book trying to escape from the hero (which was fair, because he was trying to kill her, after all), while putting herself and everyone else in danger, that I just really wanted to reach into the book and kill her myself. For someone who is supposed to be some smarty-pants lawyer, she is remarkably ignorant. To Stuart’s credit, she does attempt to give this particular heroine some backbone—in the past, some of her heroines have been wide-eyed ingénue types who run headlong towards danger—but someone should really let her know that “strong” doesn’t mean “bitch-face”. Add some low-grade James Bond shenanigans, a ridiculously evil villain, and sex scenes that were more fascinating (like a psychology experiment) than sexy, I was not blown away by this book at all.
Genevieve Spenser is a junior partner at a prestigious Manhattan law firm. She has worked extremely hard to get to where she’s at and has created an image of herself as an unflappable, competent woman in expensive designer suits and Manolo Blahnik pumps. Because she is also a hot piece of ass, she is the one who is sent by the old-boys-club law firm where she works to deliver documents to the yacht of Harry Van Dorn, a well-known philanthropist billionaire who is also a playboy who enjoys the company of beautiful women. Genevieve has plans to take off to the jungles of Costa Rica where no one would be able to reach her for six whole weeks, but figures she could just drop by Harry’s yacht, have him sign the documents, and take off. Wrong. Oh so wrong. The moment she gets on the yacht, Harry sets out to seduce her, feeding her a nice dinner under the moonlight, and acting like a perfectly gracious host, persuading her to stay the night, even amidst her most ardent objections. When she tells Harry that she’s going to miss her flight to Costa Rica, Harry promises that he will send her off himself the next morning in his very own private jet. Genevieve agrees, especially since Harry seems to be a gentleman and a very important client of her law firm, besides. Even as her mind tells her that everything is going to be just fine, Genevieve still finds herself a little rattled, but settles her nerves by popping a couple of her handy-dandy tranquilizers (she’s a pill-popper!). It’s really too bad that Harry is actually a child molester, a woman mutilator, a mad man, and a ridiculously evil villain bent on destroying the world.
Our hero Peter Jensen is a world-class super-spy who works The Committee, a shadow group charge of foiling master plans of super villains attempting to destroy the world. Over the years, he has trained himself to be an emotionless, unfeeling bastard so he can be a more effective assassin. He’s the kind of guy who’ll do anything to get the job done, even if it means sleeping with another man or killing an innocent woman. To his colleagues, he is known as the Iceman (how original). Peter has never failed a mission nor does he see it happening in the near future. His one mission this time around is to get Harry to divulge the plan behind his “Rule of Seven campaign of terror,” then kill him with no one the wiser. What is the Rule of Seven, you ask? Well, good ole Harry plans to do seven very evil things, every one of which is designed to cripple financial world, including blowing shit up and spreading the plague in a small town. Harry wants to do this because he is so very, very bored of mutilating women and molesting small children. As Harry’s very efficient personal assistant, Peter can stay in the background while investigating him. Just when it’s looking like the plan is going to go off without a hitch, a woman named Genevieve Spenser comes along and ruins everything, with her stupid blond hair and her stupid hot body. Peter had been planning to drug Harry, take him to a private island, then torture and kill him there, but it’s looking like he’ll have to kill Genevieve Spenser, too. And it wouldn’t be a problem, either. ‘Cause he’s the Iceman.
While Anne Stuart’s writing is very engaging, this book just couldn’t hold my attention. I found myself setting it down more than a couple of times and even read two separate books in the middle of it. I think the main problem is I couldn’t like either of the main characters. I mean, Peter was fascinating and all, but there was something about him that made my skin crawl. Peter reminded me of a pitbull that’s been abused and trained to kill. You may think you can tame it, but the day may come when it will jump up and tear out your throat. I know dark heroes are supposed to be sexy and all (like Batman, for example) and I’m the first to admit that I’m a big fan of male characters who’d either kill you or make sweet lurve to you, but Peter is just… all wrong. There’s a huge difference between an emotionally damaged guy and one who is practically an android. Even in the end, I just wasn’t convinced that Peter actually loved Genevieve. Maybe he was just obsessed with her. After all, he says throughout the book that he never leaves any loose ends and there has never been a mission he has failed, but that’s exactly what Genevieve is. A loose end. I just found it hard to believe that a man who is an assassin for twenty years could just turn it off and be normal. He’ll never be Joe Average and that’s exactly what Genevieve needs. The one scene where Peter shows Genevieve that he’s human is during sex. He shudders in her arms after they do it. Ooh, big deal. As it is, I just don’t believe Peter capable of ever having true human emotions.
Genevieve, on the other hand, was just really hard to like. I understood that when she was growing up, her family believed only in appearances and she could never really be herself with them. For Genevieve, the image she portrays to the public and her bosses is her suit of armor. She can’t ever be “just Genevieve” for anyone. Because of this, she learns to become extremely independent and self-reliant. This was my biggest issue with Genevieve. In this book, she is so stubborn about her independence that she becomes blind to all the dangers around her. Yes, I get that she’s Ms. Independent Womyn, but she’s also supposed to be intelligent. Hello, bitch, know which side of the bread is buttered! She finds it hard to trust anyone, much less rely on others, which is why she is constantly walking into traps or getting into trouble. In some cases, she had the evidence staring her right in the face and yet she still won’t believe it. She seems to be contrary for the sake of being contrary. There is one particular part in this book that really made me want to throw the book across the room. SPOILER ALERT: (you know the drill) After Peter risks his ass saving her from Harry The Megalomaniacal Psycho, Genevieve thanks him by trying to escape at every opportunity. At this point, she should have realized that Peter only wants to keep her safe. Hell, a child would have realized it. I couldn’t understand why she had to fight him all the way. It made for a difficult read because there wasn’t a moment where Stuart showed us that these two actually liked each other. I understand that they aren’t exactly on vacation and are running for their lives, but I wish there had been one or two tender moments between the two of them.
The only thing that kept me reading this book was the character of Harry Van Dorn, the evil psycho. I mean, he was just so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but enjoy his antics. Here is a man who has so much money that he is tainted by it in a way that he thinks he can do anything at all and get away with it. Harry reminded me of a child who would do outrageous things to get an adult’s attention. He was such a caricature of a villain that there was nothing human about him. It’s probably because I’m a comic book fan, but I found myself enraptured by him. I was also mildly amused with Peter’s M-like boss, Isobel. Here is a woman who directs an entire group of super-spies and regularly sends them to their deaths without blinking an eye, yet there is something vulnerable about her. The way her hand shakes when she reaches for a cigarette even though she hasn’t smoked in seven years, the way she worries about Peter even though she knows he can take care of himself… I found myself more interested in her than the main female character. How did she get to where she was? What was her back-story? What did she have to lose to become so cold and efficient? She just seemed like a very strong, very competent woman; I think Stuart could have taken a small piece of that gumption and injected it into Genevieve.
With the rave reviews I’ve read about this book, I find myself a little insecure about posting mine. What if I totally missed the point on it? What if I just didn’t “get” Peter and Genevieve? Well, fuck that noise. According to the spine of the book, it is a “romantic suspense” yet I didn’t get a sense of romance between the two leads. Look, just because the two of them have sex a couple of times, it doesn’t mean they’re in love. I just didn’t buy the romance between them. They exhibit the required traits of romance novel characters—she’s feisty, he’s commanding—but the two of them just didn’t mesh well together, in my opinion. The action was suitably exciting, the pacing was good, but the romance… eh, not so much. I enjoyed the scenes where Peter kicked Genevieve’s ass, but it’s probably not a good thing for a romance novel if the reader enjoyed the moments of the hero man-handling the “feisty” heroine more than the “love” scenes. Fans of the previous novel Black Ice will be happy to hear that Bastien, the hero of that book, has a cameo appearance here. Honestly, unless you were a huge fan of Black Ice and was just hankering for Peter’s story, I can’t heartily recommend this book. When it all comes down to it, it’s just not a lot of fun to read, period. However, I hear the next book of this series is about the half-Japanese, half-Irish spy Takashi O’Brien and I might be persuaded to read that. But then again, while reading Black Ice, I had wanted to read about Peter, too.
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