Reviewed: November 17, 2011
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Adrenaline Highs, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 295 Pages
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.
Tracey Bradshaw was only nineteen when she learned that, at a whim, life can explode into shards of agony and loss...and in the briefest of instants a bright future can be ripped away from you forever.
She was doing what she loved, what she was born to do, and making a name for herself in the male-dominated racing world. Breaking track records left and right during her practices for an upcoming race, she was high on life, lucky in love with the man of her dreams, and had a future that looked like the brightest of stars. Until someone threw oil on the track she was circling at over two hundred miles an hour. Until her tires ran over that oil. Until she slid into an uncontrolled spin and slammed into the wall. Until her car disintegrated around her and her body was ravaged by steel and speed and brutal impact.
It took three long, grueling years to heal...as much as she ever would...from the massive injuries she suffered that day and another year before she was back at the track that so drastically altered her life. Intent on conquering the race that almost saw her death, she and her crew were running hell bent through the qualifying and practice rounds, everything working with the slick speed of a well-oiled machine. But the nightmare wasn't over for Tracey, and that lesson learned four years ago almost to the day reared its head for a refresher course.
Her crew chief and surrogate uncle dies under suspicious circumstances and before she knows it, she's faced with the fact that someone wants her out of commission at best, at worst, dead. With mere days before the biggest race of her career and still reeling from grief, Tracey has a new crew chief thrust upon her and her team. Mac Reynolds is bullheaded, opinionated, and wrong about how to run a race, and Tracey goes toe to toe with the man on almost every detail. She may be forced to suffer him, but she sure as hell doesn't plan to do it silently.
She knows the world is watching. She knows someone is intent on making sure she never races again. That's not enough to make Tracey quit. Nothing is. Not even a man who is too good looking to be trusted, too obstinate to be liked...and too seductive to be ignored.
Taking high octane romance and suspense to a whole other level, Adams goes green flag with a prologue that left me shaken and a story that both thrilled and chilled.
I loved the characters, especially Tracey (something I don't say often about the female leads). I couldn't help but adore her for her career choice and the strength and unflinching determination she showed on every single page. She wasn't perfect, but her imperfections shaped her into a realistically flawed and still slightly broken heroine who was ultimately sympathetic. Stubborn, prideful, and waspish at times, she was also fiercely devoted to those she cared about and had enough soft spots to smooth out the tomboy rough edges a little. I was thrilled with her as a character.
Mac was a slightly more traditional male romantic lead, with few surprises to his character, but I appreciated how Adams wrote and incorporated into that character his own weaknesses and flaws, and I especially appreciated that the man knew he was himself a little broken. His respect for Tracey was just a tiny bit tinted with envy and jealously and again I thought it was a particularly realistic and sympathetic portrayal of his character given defined history.
The sparks that fly between Tracey and Mac as they snipe and gripe at each other hide a deliciously banked sexuality that fought to erupt from them every time they butted heads. Which they did. All the time. Their relationship had the air of an enemies-to-lovers theme, though they were never really enemies, per se, but that aspect sure appealed to me.
What totally impressed me, and what made me hungry for more from Adams, was the crafty and deft hand she used on the racing elements of her story. I don't even like car racing but I'd be hard pressed living in the Daytona state not to at least catch snippets and hear things about it. Not enough to be an expert by any means, but enough to feel comfortable in saying Adams caught the spirit of racing from the perspectives of the pit, the track, and the stands with such casual ease that I forgot I wasn't a fan of the sport and not only enjoyed, but felt included in the world she created for her characters. Very nicely done.
I wasn't nearly as pleased with the secondary romance plot thread and never warmed to the storyline of Tracey's sister or her sister's friend. There was a disconnect for me somewhere in that thread and I was left feeling that some of the author's intention for that thread didn't quite make it to the page in a clear enough way for me to grasp it. Whether the sister's motivations and character development were kept murky for the sake of the suspense or the thread wasn't as developed as it should have been, I don't know, but the story would have been better for me if there had been a more clearly defined relationship evolution between her and Tracey and better transitions between the shifts in focus.
The main romance in the book worked slightly better for me than the suspense, which I felt stumbled a bit around the big reveal. Not enough to disappoint, but just enough to dim my enthusiasm a touch. Still, for a book surrounding a sport I don't favor and a world that is mostly foreign to me, Adams hit so many high notes that I was completely and thoroughly entertained by the read. I can't wait for the next in her Adrenaline Highs series and can only wish it would be out sooner than 2012. Like now. Now would be good.
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