Reviewed: July 29, 2012
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Adrenaline Highs, Book 3
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Length: 255 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.
Rock 'n Roll icon Seger Hughes has been a very, very bad boy. Stumbling, sexing, and boozing his way through a brutal world tour, he's lucky if he can remember the lyrics to his songs when he's on stage. He sure can't remember the name of the barely legal girl he banged after a recent show.
He's burned out, and so disgusted with himself he can hardly meet his own eyes in the mirror. The love of music that once drove him like a demon is silent in his chest. He's desperate for a break, needs to step back and just breathe for awhile. Most of all, he needs to get away from himself.
Ashley Bristol knows a bit about playing the hand you're dealt, no matter how traumatic. She was collateral damage to a madman not too long ago and spent months in a coma because of it. Now, courtesy of a bee and the seaside stairs that lead up to her new home, Ashley takes a bad fall and ends up back in the hospital. And she's blind.
Refusing to succumb to panic or despair, Ashley returns to her beloved home intent on learning how to be independent. She had worked hard to renovate what was the guesthouse on a wealthy estate, and plans to continue to enjoy the fruits of her labor. She knows she has a neighbor, her realtor told her that's why she got such a deal on the house, but whomever it is has been a no-show since she moved in.
Mel Summers wants privacy. He wants to go unrecognized as rock's wild man while he gets his head on straight. He doesn't want to be Seger at all, actually. He certainly doesn't want a neighbor he hadn't known about or anticipated. But Ashley is like no woman Mel has ever met and her blindness allows him to keep his identity a secret. With Ashley he can just be a man.
He has no idea that someone is watching him very intently, watching as the friendship between him and Ashley grows and warms. That someone knows exactly who Mel Summers really is, and she wants nothing more than to prove to Seger that she's everything he will ever need in life. That she loves him. And she'll do whatever it takes to prove it.
I'm such a big fan of the Adrenaline Highs series. Adams brings a fresh voice and uncommon stories to the romantic suspense genre, satisfying readers with strong, unique characters thrust into life-threatening situations. Since Dangerous Race, the first in the series (which shouldn't be missed, though these books fare well as stand-alone reads), Adams has brought her happy readers into the lives of race car drivers, movie stunt women, and now rock stars. I've enjoyed every single pulse-pounding trip.
In this third installment, we're introduced to Seger Hughes, a flawed rock star with more than his share of self-made problems. He's spoiled and selfish, self-destructive and arrogant. He manages to take himself too seriously and life not seriously enough. In short, he's not exactly a nice guy, even after Ashley first wriggles her way into his life.
Ashley, on the other hand, is a force of nature. We first met her as Ellie's roommate and best friend in the previous book, Danger Zone. She's fought her way back to the land of the living and is doing fairly well until she falls down the stairs leading down to the beach from her new home and is, quite literally, struck blind. This is not a woman with the best luck in the world, by any means.
Despite that, and the occasional (completely understandable) moments of terror and despair that her blindness may be permanent, Ashley doesn't do self-pity or regret. She mourns the loss of her vision with dignity and moves forward, pressing relentlessly onward and drawing people into her sphere with her strength of character and generosity of spirit. I loved her as a secondary character in the previous book and I adored her - absolutely, positively adored her - in this one.
Frankly, Mel was a goner as soon as she set her almost completely sightless eyes on him. He just didn't know it.
The evolution of their relationship was definitely the high point of the book for me. It's become rare to find a story like this, one that so seamlessly introduces characters, develops a rock-solid friendship between them, then uses that friendship as the foundation for an incendiary love affair. It's a fantastic romance, and the characters are so modern and so clearly adult (if not always mature) in thought and deed that there's a wonderful earthy realism to every aspect of their interactions.
I'm slightly more circumspect when it comes to the suspense threads in this book. On one hand, I have to admire the utterly creepy and freakily believable motivations and actions of the antagonist. Who hasn't heard a horror story of a crazed stalker turned homicidal? You don't have to be a rock star to garner that level of crazy in your life.
On the other hand, the stalker-turned-killer villain has never been a particular favorite of mine in suspense fiction. Despite the solid execution of the storyline, I have to admit, the concept of a whack job stalking a rock star did seem a little clichéd to me. One of the few things in this series that ever has, actually.
Regardless, I think Adams wove those plot threads into the book with a masterful subtlety, including a few scenes from the point of view of the Bad Guy. It was startlingly effective at building the level of tension and suspense throughout the narrative. Not only because the chick is pathologically manipulative, delusional, and batshit crazy, but because when she worms her way into the lives of the main characters, they aren't thrilled with her as a person, but they don't know she's completely off her nut and dangerous as hell.
As critical elements go, mine turned out to be fairly minor in the end. I was so in love with the characters, so thrilled by Mel's evolution and the relationship between him and Ashley, and so impressed with the way in which Adams bled an increasing level of suspense and strain into the story, that the whole of the read was a major success for me. And this installment was my favorite of the three book (so far) series.
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