Review: Black Ice by Anne Stuart

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A pulse-pounding action-filled suspense.

Chloe wished for adventure, and she got both when she was thrust unexpectedly into an underground arms deal discussion over territory rights. Not that she knew of it at first, thinking she was only going for a translation service for ordinary businessmen. But when her life was in danger, she had no choice but to trust Bastien, who was one of the “bad” guys. Or was he?

Chloe is a believable character. As an ordinary woman suddenly tossed into the world of underground arms dealers, her behavior and reactions are realistic, and though she panics, she’s surprisingly brave and adjusts to the situation, though albeit a bit delayed at times. However, Bastien is the more interesting character study, as he transforms slowly from a tired, unfeeling, jaded man to someone who behaves irrationally where Chloe is concerned.

The suspense is done pretty well, though I thought there were extraneous scenes that make no sense. Aside from giving our two leads the chance to “bond”, that is. Like, why did Hakim have to send Bastien and Chloe away from the mansion? Ostensibly, it’s to remove Chloe from the scene while they discuss business. So, why doesn’t Bastien need to be there at the discussion? Since he has a stake in the outcome, I’d have thought Bastien would need to be there.

The romance was understated, and I thought the romantic development fell a little bit short. I wasn’t that convinced that Chloe was in love with him–after all, he’s a killer, he seduced her to gain information, etc. Bastien is said to be a womanizer, and he’s able to seduce information out of women. He brings this skill to their first intimate encounter, and I do understand why he did it. As a covert agent, he must have had to do things like have sex with people he didn’t want to maintain his cover, or to gain information. However, the way he did it with Chloe, I’m not convinced it would actually persuade a woman to give up her secrets. (And, by the way, while there may be dubious consent, there’s no “force” to it, meaning, Chloe didn’t say no, though she could have.)

Another thing that disturbed me was the lack of condom usage. While condoms are unromantic and destroy the fantasy of the romance, let’s face it–it’s a fact of life in the present age. And while I might be willing to overlook it in historical or fantasy/paranormal romance, with Bastien being a womanizer, I’d hate to think of the diseases he’s carrying and might be transferring to Chloe. That certainly destroyed whatever lingering romantic feel-good sentiment I might have toward the book.

Also, I would have appreciated an epilogue of how things are between Chloe and Bastien several months down the road, and it would have been a nice layer to the romantic development front.

With regard to the author’s writing style, I thought her dialogue and action scenes (where things are happening, and not just where things are blown up) were done pretty well. It’s when she’s in the narrative, like in Chloe’s or Bastien’s thoughts, that her prose meanders and there’s a tendency to info dump.

That said, I’m giving this book a rating of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars. BLACK ICE is the first book in the series, and I’m interested to see what goes on further with the Committee. I hope we’ll get to see Chloe and Bastien again in cameo roles in succeeding books!

Rating: 4 stars

The Romance Review

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Summary:

Living paycheck to paycheck in Paris, American book translator Chloe Underwood would give anything for some excitement and passion—even a little danger. So when she’s offered a lucrative weekend gig translating at a business conference in a remote château, she jumps at the chance to shake things up.

Then by chance Chloe discovers her employers are anything but the entrepreneurs they appear, and suddenly she knows far too much. Her clients are illegal arms dealers, and one of them is ordered to kill her. But instead, Bastien Toussaint drags Chloe away, and the next thing she knows she’s on the run with the most terrifying and seductive man she’s ever met. What were his motives—and would she live long enough to find out?

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