by Jennifer Ryan, contemporary (2013)
Avon Impulse, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-227133-4
Lucky Like Us is a part of the author's series The Hunted, which from what I have seen so far revolves around women in need of protection from psychotic villains falling for the guys who are protecting them. This one is a stand alone story, with only superficial links to the previous book - the hero Sam Turner is the twin brother of the dude from the previous book, and both books dance on quicksand where logic is concerned.
Elizabeth Turner, our heroine, is a baker who happens to stumble upon our FBI Special Agent hero injured on the street one evening. By attempting to help him, she ends up getting assaulted herself by the villain, some guy known only as Silver Fox to the authorities. She lands up in hospital along with Sam, and worse, she attracts the attention of this villain who just enjoys killing people. Is Sam up to the task of protecting her from harm?
This story sees Jennifer Ryan going deeper along the romantic suspense route, as I get more scenes of various secondary characters on the case as well as the obligatory scenes of the villain going "Nyah, nyah, nyah, I'm so awesome!" This ends up with the characters being even more one-dimensional than ever. Elizabeth spends most of the story on her back - confined to the hospital bed or, you know, having fun with Sam - so she doesn't have many opportunities to be anything more than a saint. She bakes and gives away cookies on weekends, everyone adore her, and the villain is just pure evil to want to hurt a special unicorn like her. Sam is a standard action hero - very protective, very determined to keep her safe, and gets all hot and jealous at all the predictable moments.
The romance is actually the most appealing thing about this story, because Sam's obsessive overprotective nature has its charms and Elizabeth has a sense of humor that makes her one-dimensional character somewhat palatable. But this is like having a piece of Godiva chocolate served alongside a giant pile of poo, as the rest of the story is, frankly, quite poo.
The FBI agents are not very capable or reliable, for one, and I hate to say this, but Sam is included in the bunch of incompetent twits. They manage to let the bad guy slip past their vigilant supervision to do things like scrawling "Bitch!" inside a cake box meant for Elizabeth (don't ask). After all their vigilance and constant planning, all it takes is Elizabeth walking to the loo - alone, of course - for the bad guy to grab her for the obligatory dramatic rescue finale. Sam's partner has the actual photo of Silver Fox, but of course he won't share it with Sam , because - let me quote the story - "he thought it better to have Sam watching out for any kind of threat, rather than focused on a single person". What kind of weird logic is that? It may make sense if Sam actually is on the look for villains that scrawl on cake boxes, but just a page later, I learn that he and Elizabeth "sleep together in her bed and make love, usually more than once" every night. Is that what they call being vigilant these days? And maybe it's just me, but I don't think two shagged-out people on the bed are capable of putting up much of a fight if the villain breaks into the room and spray "Bitch!" on their faces.
When the identity of Silver Fox is revealed, I can only wonder how someone like him can do what he does without anybody noticing, since people like him can't just up and do whatever on a whim. And how on earth did he learn all the kung-fu skills to do his thing? But I guess it doesn't matter, since this villain is just what he is, created solely to be a cartoon bad guy.
And then, early on in the story, Sam makes an issue of how he can't find the right woman as his job is often too much for a typical woman to handle. Elizabeth claims that she's fine with his undercover gigs and all, and this is fine, except, by the last page, the author presents such a saccharine happy ending full of rainbows and magic daffodils that is implausible if Sam changes jobs, which doesn't happen here. It's as if the author had completely forgotten what she wrote at the beginning.
Also, the story is all over the place. One moment it's channeling those unintentionally hilarious Lifetime movies where Sam is begging an unconscious Elizabeth to get up and get well, and then Elizabeth is conscious but unable to communicate directly with anyone so it's her thoughts in italics trying to link telepathically to Sam. A few chapters down the road and it's more of a straight police procedure tale (only this one is cobbled together without any deliberate resemblance to real life), but wait, Sam's partner is talking to a ghost who turns out to be a projection of his issues about some woman in his past. There are too many different disparate elements in here, thrown together to produce an overdone story that tries to be everything only to come off as schizophrenic.
If we change the title of this book to Ridiculous Like Us, that would be just about right. Ms Ryan can come up with a decent bodyguard-boinks-me romance if she puts her heart to it, but her efforts at romance suspense so far are truly wretched.
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