by Stephanie Rowe, contemporary (2009)
LoveSpell, $7.99, ISBN 978-0505527758
Stephanie Rowe's Ice is a romantic suspense tale, a pretty drastic departure from her light-hearted paranormal romps for Grand Central Publishing. While it isn't particularly violent or gruesome, the author has created some pretty terrific suspenseful and chilling atmosphere here. In fact, the setting is literally chilling - the tale is set in the wilds of Alaska.
Two weeks ago, Kaylie Fletcher received news that her parents as well as her brother and his girlfriend were killed during a climbing expedition in Alaska. She has always played it safe, unlike her family members who live for the adrenaline rush created from doing exciting things, but when the story opens, she is going to do something drastic for a change. Recently, she received an anonymous phone call telling her that her mother is still alive. While this could easily be a prank call, she couldn't take any chances. Contacting her Alaskan friend Sara, she makes plans to fly down to Alaska, and Sara will arrange for her accommodation when she is in Alaska.
The moment she arrives in Alaska, she encounters pilot Cort McClaine, who apparently lives for the adrenaline rush like her family members. They get off on the wrong foot, but there is still an attraction between them. Cort is the best friend of Sara's husband, by the way. Soon, these two will discover the gruesome bodies of Sara and her husband, and worse, the killer isn't after Sara or Cort. He is pursuing Kaylie all along! What is going on here? How on earth did Kaylie get involved in such a mess? Kaylie doesn't know the answers, but she's going to find out soon enough, unfortunately.
The first half or so of Ice is a problematic read.
Both Kaylie and Cort are very damaged characters, so it's hard to believe that they can any way be in love. Kaylie is a problematic heroine because she is very judgmental and unnecessarily nasty toward Cort that I can only wonder whether she has some psychological issues that the author isn't mentioning in this story. When she realizes that her family as well as Sara are dead, she doesn't grief for them, mind you, instead she wails and whines because she is all alone in the world. Given that she is not exactly in a state of mind to fall in love, I have a hard time buying her attraction to Cort. As for Cort, he is the quintessential tortured guy who uses his miserable past to behave like an ass toward Kaylie, sleeping with her and saying things that cut her when she isn't receptive toward him but pushing her away afterward because he's a weenie king who is scared to get hurt again.
And then I get these bewilderingly inserted sex scenes. The plane has crashed? Apparently that makes them horny because they just have to have sex there and then. There is a creepy guy lurking outside the cabin! Ooh baby, let's have sex in the cabin! Cort is badly injured... and he wants to have sex with Kaylie.
However, the second half of Ice is a terrific read. Here, the suspense builds up in such a taut and gripping manner that I am at the edge of my seat. And seriously, the last few chapters make for some truly fantastic read as Cort rushes to save Kaylie while having to confront all the demons in his past at the same time. The two characters also begin interacting in a manner that I feel is genuine and honest, a far cry from their initial contrived "Hate you! Let's shag!" relationship in the first half of the story, and I find myself actually believing that these two will work out fine in the end.
And throughout it all, the author describes the setting in such life-like detail that I feel as if I could experience the cold and the fear despite being seated warm and safe in my favorite reading chair.
Ice therefore starts out in a pretty rocky manner. But by the last page, I'm hard pressed to remember the problems of the early parts of this story, as I've had a fabulous time with the second half of the story. All things considered, Ice manages to pull through in the end to deliver the goods, so it's A-OK where I am concerned.
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