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REVIEW: In the Air Tonight by Stephanie Tyler

Dear Ms. Tyler:

I choose this book because I like romantic suspense stories  with former special forces heroes (and heroines), I liked Hard to Hold, the first in your previous series, and this story featured a sister and BFF of an older brother romance.  The blurb alerted me to the fact that there was a supernatural element in the story and while that’s not a favorite trope of mine, I decided to wait and see.  Of all the things that bothered me about the book, the supernatural element was not one of them.

Into the Air Tonight stephanie tylerMace Stevens is a Delta Force operative who also runs a bar in upstate New York when he isn’t off saving the world.  (I found this to be implausible, but what do I know).  Mace’s crew was captured and tortured and one of its members, Gray, was killed.  His body is shipped back to his family where he is mourned by his father and stepsister, Paige Grayson.

Paige has a special ability that allows her to see a person’s thoughts, memories and emotions by touching them with her hands.  So of course, she goes into nursing because if one is haunted by one’s ability, you choose something that puts you in near constant contact with people who are in pain and suffering, correct?  But an incident at the hospital brings Paige unwanted publicity and the local newsrooms dig out her story of being the sister of a boy who shot up his high school and killed several classmates.  Paige has suffered from this ever since because she knew her brother, Jeffrey, was bad. She could sense it every time she touched him.  Jeffrey was in the psychiatric ward of a maximum state prison, but he’s still haunting her.

Paige decides to quit her job and seek out Mace to find out what really happened to her brother.  There are two competing stories going on in this book.  The first is a continuation of a previous storyline involving Mace Stevens’ Delta Force team that was captured and tortured.  One of the members is dead and another has amnesia.  Caleb can’t remember what happened to him and the implication is that he may have killed Gray.  Throughout the story, Caleb is interchanged with Cael.  I thought that this was an editing error because it just made no sense at all.  I was told later that it was a nickname.  Not once in the book, however, was it mentioned that Cael was a nickname for Caleb and why wouldn’t it be Cale v. Cael.  This was actually a big deal to me because I constantly was wondering if there was another person in the room.

But Mace’s were just beginning. He’d had the feeling in his gut all day, couldn’t shake it, had snapped at Caleb for no reason and now Keagen, the other bartender, was also giving him a wide berth.

Cael, not so much. He was used to Mace’s moods—even with Caleb’s memory loss, he seemed to understand instinctively that his friend was, and always had been, a moody bastard.

and

He didn’t wait for a response before he left, which was good, since Mace had frozen at Cael’s words, was still staring where the man had been standing, although Caleb was already long gone.

and

Caleb had been drugged simply by luck of the genetic draw. Reid had been down for the count and the three of them that were left—himself, Gray and Cael—were equally capable, but Caleb was broader, definitely the biggest of the men, and DMH had figured they needed brawn.

There just didn’t seem any rhyme or reason as to when they called him Cael or Caleb.  I think the constant switching between Caleb and Cale confused me because some of the writing was rough and I would spend a long time puzzling over the meaning of a sentence rather than being engrossed in the story.

Mace needed to keep busy—goddamned, mindnumbingly busy—contemplated going for a ride on the ATV, until the liquor truck came skidding up the road, toward the bar.

“You’re not okay, Mace, so don’t try to pretend with me,” she said simply.  Not unkindly, and it was all he could do not to tie her to his bed and not keep there until neither of them could see or walk.

But how am I supposed to pick it all apart?  How am I supposed to tell the difference between the men he’d been ordered to kill in the line of duty and the man he’s not?

When he pulled her hips out and spread her legs, she gripped the sides of the sink, harder than before.  When he sank his tongue deep inside of her, she felt as if she could rip it off the wall.

The second part of the story is the suspense plot in which random bad things are happening to Paige that can be traced back to her brother, Jeffrey.  Jeffrey is just a stock crazy, icky villain.  There is nothing in his past that made him bad and there is no exploration of the childhood that Paige and Jeffrey shared to see why one kid turned out wonderful (and gifted) and the other didn’t.  Given that Paige had a supernatural gift, it seemed odd that this was not explored.

The emotional arc of the characters seemed to go from A to Z with no discernable path in the middle.  For much of the first part of the book, Mace and Paige are at odds and then suddenly, they give in to their passion and start copulating.  I guess I was supposed to find that the lust was too great for them to overcome but why at the particular time? Why not when she first comes to find Mace?  When does Mace go from the solitary independent man to not being able to breath without being physically attached to Paige and vice versa?

Paige’s gift is inconsistent, although no reason is given for this. The inconsistency is convenient, sometimes she can see whole swaths of a person’s past, but when it comes to Caleb/Cael, she only gets feelings but later she’s able to watch nearly every memory of Mace’s, practically experiencing his entire life through her hands.

Finally, I was frustrated when all  these random guys began showing up. I kept wondering a) why are they here and b) more importantly, where the heck are they all going to sleep?  How do they all fit into that tiny house? I felt like it was such an obvious ploy to say “see, look how many sexy guys I will write about in the future” but I wasn’t intrigued but irritated.  It’s possible that part of my problem had to do with jumping into a series at midpoint but you can’t blame everything on that.  D

Best regards,

Jane

P.S. I know that the commenters will say “where is the editor or copyeditor” but one thing I learned from publishing folks is that if an author is very late with her work or if she is not a very clean writer in the first place, these things are not always in control of the editor or copyeditor. I don’t know who is to blame, I only know that it was distracting.

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

16 Comments

  1. SHZ
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 05:21:30

    Oh crap. I still haven’t got around to reading this one, but was looking forward to it. WHY does there need to be paranormal stuff introduced mid-series?! Maya Banks is doing it with her new KGI book (the next one sounds like a bad copy of Christine Feehan’s last Drake Sisters book). I read romantic suspense to get away from the paranormal – I hate that it’s turning up everywhere.

    I actually didn’t like Hard to Hold. It didn’t get off to a good start with the hero supposedly joining the Navy at fifteen because he was such a hard arse (snort). He was so tough that everyone turned a blind eye to his false documents (snort). There were too many points of view too.

    But this series got off to a great start. I did a complete turnaround with the author and became a big fan.

    Now I won’t get my hopes up when I read it.

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  2. Chelsea Spencer
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 08:11:12

    On the whole Caleb/Cael/Cale thing: I insist that if the intention was to give him a nickname, Cale would have been more correct and less distracting. Furthermore, and this is really just my opinion, nicknames belong in dialogue only. Even if the author is using a conversational tone in her narrative, she should really call everyone by the same name all of the time so that readers can keep track of everyone. Like, if I were a book character, another character might address me–”Oh, hi Chels.”, but when the author was describing my thoughts or actions, she would write Chelsea.

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  3. LEW
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 09:35:04

    NO! Don’t tell me there’s psi crap in Maya Banks’ next KGI!!! Cherry Adair is doing it in some of her books, and I hate it. It usually seems like such a cop out for covering a plot with holes.

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  4. Allie
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 10:05:51

    This name issue happened to me when I listened to some steampunk book that was reviewed here. The author referred to the main character as Miss Whoever and then the next time she was FirstName. I spent the first 3 hours of the book trying to figure out who these people were. After I finally figured out she was using two ways to refer to the same person for no obvious reason, I found that I had to stop listening to the book because I had no idea what was going on in the story. Right – I looked it up – Alexia Tarabotti in Soulless.

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  5. dick
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 11:44:02

    At some point not too far into the book, the Cael/Caleb thing was made pretty clear, and, after that it didn’t bother me much. The influx of characters about 3/4 through, did; also the sense of a lot of backstory about which the reader had no knowledge irritated. What bothered me most, though, was the lack of action, which surely one has a right to expect in a book about special forces. Blah.

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  6. Joanna K.
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 13:46:46

    The whole Caleb/Cael read as awkward to me. I would have read Cael as “Ka-El”.

    I also agree with Chelsea Spencer. A nickname would do well in a character’s thoughts or speech written in quotes. But being addressed in a book? Definitely the full name.

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  7. Courtney
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 13:49:07

    The names would confuse me as well. Even if the author is late and not a clean writer to begin with as you have noted in your last comment, she should be aware of this kind of thing. Also you would think the editor was say something to her about it.
    Oh well, think I will pass on this one.

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  8. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 14:06:56

    P.S. I know that the commenters will say “where is the editor or copyeditor” but one thing I learned from publishing folks is that if an author is very late with her work or if she is not a very clean writer in the first place, these things are not always in control of the editor or copyeditor. I don’t know who is to blame, I only know that it was distracting.

    Man, I have to call shenanigans on this excuse. If a writer is very late with her work, the publisher has the option to a) delay release of the book or b) cancel the contract. If the writer is isn’t “very clean,” then additional time should be built into the schedule between the author’s deadline and the release date to ensure that proper copy editing can be done.

    Honestly, there is nothing more irritating to me than trying to excuse poor copy editing by claiming you didn’t have time to do it right. If a publisher doesn’t have time to properly edit a book before releasing it on the unsuspecting masses, then I don’t have the time to read it (or the money to buy it).

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  9. Jane
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 14:15:24

    I disagree, obviously, or i wouldn’t have put the caveat there. 1) it is very expensive and detrimental to the author to move a book. 2) authors who are perenially late or who aren’t clean writers need to take responsibility for their own work. It is their name on the cover of that book. I have seen arcs (not from this author) that are incredibly poor shape. It would have taken an army of copyeditors and content editors to clean these things up. If an author sends in a shoddy work product, its not so easy for the publisher to reject it for many reasons (contract issues, publishing schedules, coops, etc).

    Yes, the reader is the one that suffers in this scenario, but there is plenty of blame to go around.

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  10. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 14:32:25

    And I’m totally okay with us disagreeing, however, here’s WHY I disagree:

    1) Is it any more detrimental to the author to move the book than to have it go out with such egregious errors? How much does it “cost” the publisher to have its brand associated with shoddy quality? (Honestly, given the

    2) There is a deadline in the contract for the reason. If the author misses the deadline, THAT is the point at which the publisher must consider pushing out the release date, not when the manuscript comes in three months before the release date and moving it is all but impossible. Deadlines are usually at least six months prior to publication (often longer–mine was 9 months before release), at least in the print environment, which means that the publisher has probably not issued the catalog listing the book to retailers yet. This is the time to push out the release schedule, not when it’s already too late. And I think it’s relatively easy/inexpensive to shift publication dates in the digital environment.

    3) How long do we think it takes to copy edit a single title manuscript (independent of content revisions)? Even if we assume the author doesn’t get the book turned in until 3 months before the release date, that is MORE than adequate time (IMHO) to get the manuscript through a decent copy edit. Yes, the messier it is, the more errors are likely to slip through the copy editing process, but it’s hard for me to believe some of the books I’ve seen have been copy-edited at all.

    I agree that authors who are perenially late need to take responsiblity, but that includes publishers actually DOING something when an author repeatedly fails to meet deadlines (like not recontracting the author, building more time into that author’s schedules, etc.). Ditto the author taking more responsibility for producing a clean manuscript. Unless and until there is a penalty for turning in shoddy work (like having your contract canceled or your release date pushed out), there’s not that much incentive and authors have a tendency to believe (rightly or wrongly) that copy editing is the publisher’s responsibility, not theirs. (And to be frank, NO ONE is a good copy editor of his/her own work. Even the most attentive, “cleanest” author makes mistakes and can’t see them.)

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  11. Jane
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 14:35:56

    The experience you write about here is not the experience of many others, particularly in a print environment. And, in fact, the more successful the author is, the more often she is likely not to be bound by those pesky things such as deadlines.

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  12. Sherri
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 14:41:03

    I read the first two in this series but was hesitant about reading this one. After your review I think I’ll pass.

    The first book in this series was good and lived up to expectations. The second one really fell flat. There was too much going on with two romances and then more than halfway through the book you’re introduced to some random woman who becomes part of a third romance that felt like it was only there to pad the book (or as sequel bait).

    The other problem is that these books are obviously meant to be read as a series and not standalone. The second book continues the first and there are story lines left hanging making it obvious they will continue in the third. That’s all good if you read them in order back-to-back but it can be really confusing if you don’t.

    I also struggled with the Caleb/Cael thing even though it was explained early on. I just don’t get the Cael spelling and why they’re so interchangeable even within one sentence. Pick one and stick to it!

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  13. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 15:07:15

    There’s no reply button to your post, Jane, so quoting:

    The experience you write about here is not the experience of many others, particularly in a print environment.

    Which experience? That deadlines exist? That they are usually at least 6 months prior to the release date?

    Maybe things have changed since my print book was contracted (entirely possible; I don’t claim to be an expert), but as far as I know, any deadline under 4 months before release in the print environment is considered to be “crashing” the book and publisher generally don’t like (or they didn’t used to like) to do it unless absolutely necessary.

    And, in fact, the more successful the author is, the more often she is likely not to be bound by those pesky things such as deadlines.

    I think this is very true, however, I don’t see this as the fault of the author but of the publisher. The publisher is the party that specifies the deadlines and holds the purse strings. If they don’t hold an author’s feet to the fire when an author is perpetually late, they cannot then (IMO) come back and lay blame for a poor quality product on the author. Is SOME of it the author’s fault? Definitely. But the publisher has recourse, including NOT publishing a crappy, unedited book.

    One problem is that the more successful the author is, the less incentive there is for the publisher to worry about putting out a shoddy product, because the author’s fans will buy it anyway. I personally think that’s a slap in the face to those fans from both author and the publisher (“we know you are sheeple who will buy this book no matter how bad it is”).

    That said, I also think authors have a reasonable expectation that their books WILL be edited by their publishers; that’s part of what we are supposedly getting in exchange for giving up a sizable chunk of the profit derived from sales of the book.

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  14. Artemis
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 18:14:23

    Yes, the books in this series are best read in order. I did read the first two and the Caleb/Cael can get confusing. I read romantic suspense for just that: Suspense, action, shit blowing up, black ops, you get the picture. Think I’ll pass on this one. Psi, especially mind reading or knowing the thoughts of someone else is not one of my favorites. I don’t want my H/h knowing what the other is thinking. LOL!

    If my local library gets it in, I may read it.

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  15. SonomaLass
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 20:19:12

    I don’t care whose fault it is, those sentences you quoted are awkwardly constructed and would frustrate me as a reader. I think the name thing would too, as from the examples you give, there’s no logic behind when each version is used. Sloppy.

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  16. Emily
    Aug 11, 2011 @ 14:22:36

    I tend to think problems in a series– like a supernatural element being suddenly introduced or a lot of random male characters around– come from the series being too long. I am in favor of series being shorter or finite (such as JQ Bridgertons (8 kids=8 books). Exceptions might be made for a popular character who hasn’t recieved their own book.
    I even like one book only settings.

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