REVIEW: Cold as Ice by Anne Stuart
Dear Ms. Stuart,
Genevieve Spenser finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time when she arrives on billionaire Harry Van Dorn’s yacht. Harry is not only rich but gorgeous and charming, and his sexiness has gotten People magazine’s stamp of approval. He is known for caring about working conditions in his factories and is meeting with Genevieve to give away oil fields to charity.
Among the staff working for Harry is his practically invisible assistant, Peter Jensen. Peter is meticulous, bland and polite, except when Genevieve catches him casting a disapproving look at her seven hundred dollar shoes. He seems completely sexless and Genevieve thinks of him as “that gray ghost of a man.”
From this description some readers who haven’t read your previous book in this series, Black Ice, might assume that Harry is the hero whom Genevieve will end up with and Peter is just a fly on the wall. The nice thing is that they’d be wrong. Harry, it turns out, is a megalomaniac villain plotting to bring seven worldwide disasters he can profit from. And Peter, a secret assassin sent by a shadowy organization called the Committee to stop Harry at all costs, is the hero, such as he is.
Peter is a professional in every sense of the word. He has killed countless villains in the line of duty and views sex as just another weapon in his arsenal, one he can use on both men and women. No, Peter is not bisexual. He is straight, but will do what it takes to get a job done, and as he admits to Genevieve later on in the book, he is willing to prostitute himself.
Though Genevieve is far less experienced than Peter, she is perhaps not as different from him as she’d like to think. A former legal aid attorney, Genevieve now works for a law firm that caters to the wealthy. Once idealistic, Genevieve now wears Armani and Blahnik, and takes tranquilizers to allay her unease. She even considers sleeping with Harry, not because she wants to, but because she knows it is what the senior partners at he law firm expect her to do to close the deal.
But Genevieve ultimately decides against it, and next thing she knows she is being kissed and rendered unconscious by Peter. When she wakes up she is lying next to the tied up Harry, both of them hostages of Peter and the other men who have hijacked the yacht. Genevieve soon learns that Peter, no longer the gray ghost but now a man who exudes danger, has orders to kill her within a day or two so there will be no witnesses when the Committee gets rid of Harry.
What she doesn’t realize is that Peter is balking at the order to execute Genevieve. He has never had to kill an innocent bystander before, and he doesn’t want to start now. Seemingly so Genevieve will be able to protect herself from his fellow agents but secretly in the hopes that she’ll escape as well, Peter begins to teach Genevieve self-defense.
These scenes are some of the most effective in the book, with a dark and hypnotic feel. It’s as though an invisible thread binds Peter and Genevieve together, and neither can escape the other’s powerful effect. Peter feels caught between his commitment to keeping the world safe and his need to spare Genevieve, and Genevieve is mesmerized by a man she believes intends to kill her.
As they arrive on Harry’s island, the sexual pull between them leads Peter and Genevieve to become even more entangled, and the sex they eventually have is hot and disturbing. Meanwhile, Harry Van Dorn plots his escape and his evil plans for Peter, Genevieve, and the rest of the world.
I think Cold as Ice is one of your best books. A lot of this is due to your fine portrayal of Peter, who is more than just another bad boy hero. His coldness never feels gratuitous because it is the mechanism that allows him to function in a job he doesn’t like but feels is necessary for the good of the world. He is a character with depth and nuance, and I liked him very much and empathized with him even knowing that he was a killer.
Genevieve, though not quite as interesting as she seemed when introduced, was also a character I liked. Her mouthy comebacks made for a nice counterpoint to Peter’s solemnity. Although she’s not as tough as Peter, she (with just one exception) fights for her life and for others’ as well. Her interactions with Peter are written with a stark honesty that I really appreciated.
I can’t help but feel, however, that I would have liked more scenes between Peter and Genevieve to develop their relationship even more, especially in the second half of the book. In addition, Cold as Ice could have been even better if not for its over-the-top villain. Not only does Harry plot death and destruction all over the world, he’s also an abuser of women and children and a fanatic believer in the zodiac. His character felt out of place to me in this otherwise psychologically acute book.
Readers who have read Black Ice might be interested to know that the Committee has become a slightly more restrained version of itself. Its new head, Madame Lambert, agonizes over every death order she signs. The Committee’s agents too, seem less ruthless here than they did in the earlier book. That is perhaps necessary to differentiate these two books from each other, but even knowing that, I miss the earlier version of the Committee that gave such a dark context to Bastien and Chloe’s romance in the superb Black Ice. Still, I think Cold as Ice is one of the better romances of 2006, and it easily gets a B+ from me.