Friday, December 2, 2011

Run Among Thorns

Summary: A decent suspense romance at a great e-book price.

Run Among Thorns, by Louise Lucia, is in the espionage thriller end of the romance spectrum.  The premise is that before the book begins, Jenny (heroine) is in a hostage situation that starts to turn ugly.  She springs into action and kills all the attackers handily.

A government agency assumes she's some sort of super spy, but can't find any info on her, so they call in a specialist interrogator Kier (hero) to break her down and find out her secrets.  His method involves whisking her away to a remote location and spending a lot of up-close-and-personal time with her,  which is where the romance part of the suspense romance kicks in.  Of course, she's not a spy, so although he starts out with his campaign of breaking her down emotionally, it doesn't go according to plan.

The plot and psychology of it all is more realistic than you'd imagine going by the plot summary.  Honest.  In fact, I'd say that the psychological realism and character growth is probably the strength of the book.  The hero in particular starts out as a really expert, amoral, psychological manipulator, and it's interesting to watch him grow over the course of the book.

I actually like the main characters, including the hero, who I feel like I shouldn't have liked in the beginning, especially. There's a plot twist or two - enough to give it a little bit of a suspense thriller feel, but not so much that I was wondering "Holy crap, what happens next?"  And there's a secondary story arc from the point of view of one of the agency's people.  It wasn't badly written, but I think the book would be tighter if that part were excised entirely.   The character provides a window into the villains' world and action at the end that's useful for the plot, but they the story would still hold together without it, so it ended up just mostly adding interruptions to pacing.

But the real weakness for me is in the initial chemistry.  It's not enough of a twist-y turn-y thrill ride to make the grade entirely as a thriller, so it's really a romance.  But the romance is one of those where they're mysteriously attracted to each other for no obvious reason from the beginning.  Going from a seriously adversorial relationship to the beginnings of a romantic one, was rough.   I didn't buy it, and it felt a little squicky.  Although, maybe it was supposed to, because the origins of that relationship are  intrinsically squicky.  Since the rest of it feels so emotionally true, you can't suspend disbelief for just this one bit like you can with "soul mate" plots in paranormal romances.  Psychological realness or not, I would have enjoyed the book more if there were moments of fun.  Where one showed wry humor or tenderness or something.

Happily, the development of the relationship in the second half of the story feels more believable and good to me.  Once it's established that they share an attraction and are starting to rely on each other, then dealing with issues of trust and openness and such are well handled.

Next in the series: Dangerous Lies looks to be similar suspense romance using a secondary character from this book.  It's not the $.99 special that this one is, but if I'm really jonesing for a suspense romance, I might look it up.

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