Reviewed: February 20, 2012
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Adrenaline Highs, Book 2
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 114,000 Words
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Carina Press via NetGalley.
This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Being a stunt woman in Hollywood isn't the easiest or most reliable of occupations, but Ellie Morgan has built a solid reputation in her ten-year career. She's good at it. She enjoys it. But her newest gig as stunt double for the star of the movie about female race car driver Trace Bradshaw gave her the first opportunity to get behind the wheel of a race car. And the moment she's in the driver seat, screaming around the track at over a hundred miles an hour, Elle has a moment of perfect clarity. She knows, beyond question, what she was meant to do. She was born to race.
That thrill, that drive to follow a dream newly born but bright with hope, motivates Elle like nothing else. It makes her acknowledge that it's time for a change in her life. And it forces her to accept that to go in this particular direction with her career, she's going to have to tackle one particular demon that's haunted her since childhood.
But not before she wraps up this job, this movie.
Quinn Reynolds is fed up with his brother ducking him and he flew from London to California to tell him so, and to get Mac to finally agree to sell the company the brothers had inherited from their father. Quinn wants out. For two years he's slaved over that company, expanding it into the multi-million dollar industry leader that it is today, but Quinn's done. He's done with London. He's done with the company, and most important, he's done with the race cars they make and the entire sport of car racing. Facts he's more than willing to choke his brother with as soon as he gets him alone, a feat that seems far easier said than done.
Frustrated by his lack of success, desperate to unwind, he chats up a sexy blonde beauty at the bar he and his family had chosen to dine. Doesn't look like his luck is going any better with the fairer sex when she turns out to be the stunt woman doing all the dangerous stunts that his sister-in-law had lived through years ago. A stunt woman he had actually been introduced to that morning...and who had overheard him dish out to the lead actress the same cheesy line he'd just used on her.
So...it's California...where are all those earthquakes when you need the ground to open up and swallow you?
While the dance between a persistent man and a resistant woman heats up, a dark presence observes from the shadows. Plotting, planning, and fueled by rage, his target will have to be eliminated. And if that target can't seem to be more than five feet from the blonde floozy at any given time, he'll off her too. He will not be denied. Regardless of how much blood he has to spill or how many lives he has to take to get what he wants.
Dee J. Adams is back with another high octane romantic suspense that delivers thrills, chills, and scorching romance! I love her characters, her writing style, the uniqueness of the plots, and the visceral reality she manages to imbue in the descriptions of her books' settings and in her characters' lives. And with this book, she's created one of the most original connecting threads between two books in a series I've ever read. I thought the idea of the main characters meeting on location of the filming of a movie based on the characters and events in the first book was pretty damn ingenious. I loved that!
And since I'm spreading the love, I don't want to skimp on how much I adored Elle and appreciated her very real issues. Adams created the perfect emotional storm in Elle's past, paired it with a learning disorder, and came up with a character both believable and realistic. The emotional impacts of illiteracy and the glimpses of the necessary, labor-intensive work-arounds Elle must incorporate into her daily life to cope with her disability and hide it from the world were brilliant, poignant, and tragic.
Her illiteracy did not, however, define her as a person. Nor was it in any way used to make her seem less a person, not as intelligent, not as worthy. Quite the opposite, actually. I just loved her. She is strong, brutally disciplined, independent, confident...and also vulnerable, dependent, insecure. The sheer scope of her personality and the range of her emotional make-up was impressive.
Honestly, as much as I liked Quinn...eventually...he was a bit dimmer a star than Elle in this book for me. I didn't like him much at first, and had some big concerns with his seeming selfishness. He does show up at a movie set he knows his brother is working at and expects him to sort of drop everything to give him the time of day. That struck me as a bit entitled and immature. But then he started interacting with Elle and either my feelings warmed towards him or he was genuinely changed by his relationship with her, because he ended up being a solid, dependable man in Elle's life...and was both a softy and a real sweetheart. Oh...and sexy. He was definitely all about the sexy.
Together they burned up the pages and their romance sizzled even as it emotionally satisfied.
For all that I liked the plot, which I thought was more streamlined and focused than its predecessor, and thoroughly enjoyed the characters and their relationship, I have to admit, the book started a little slow for me. I was about a quarter of the way in before I felt it really hit its stride. Once it did, I was totally on board for the ride, but the developing pieces of the plot and the initial character introductions seemed a bit clunky for me up until then, and the story started off slightly slower-paced than I would have liked. After the shocking, heart-stopping beginning that was in Adams' debut, this one was far more sedate. A little too sedate.
I also had some trouble with the suspense plot threads in this book, one I didn't have in the previous book. While I felt the action scenes that resulted from the Bad Guys actions were awesome and the emotional impact from the damage BG inflicts was gut-wrenching, he never had much of a presence in the narrative. When he did, he didn't seem terribly effective, at least not in a way that inspired concern, fear, or horror in the lead characters. They didn't even know there was a threat until late in the book. While I suppose there was opportunity for readers to be concerned for the main characters, without the characters themselves being concerned for themselves or knowing of a particular threat, it didn't seem that suspenseful to me.
That issue didn't detract much from the read for me, though. I liked the characters too much, and was too swept up in their romance to care overmuch about it. Elle and Quinn were a delight to my romance-loving heart, and Adams writes hot, sensual sex scenes that burn the pages they grace. When combined with the freshness in the setting and story and the personal issues each of them face, Adams' sophomore effort is another heart-pounding thrill ride of pure reading entertainment.
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