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REVIEW: Striking Distance by Pamela Clare

Dear Ms. Clare,

I’ve enjoyed your earlier I-Team books both in print and audiobook format and I was very excited to read the next instalment. You are one of the few authors I find reliable in the romantic suspense department these days. While it’s true that there is heightened reality in fiction, your characters make sense and fit into the world I know. The law enforcement agencies are subject to real problems and don’t act in ways that are unbelievable to me.

striking distance pamela clare

Recommended by Kaetrin ( A | BN | K | S | G) * Romantic Suspense

Striking Distance is the story of Laura Nilsson, a Swedish-American broadcast journalist who was abducted and reportedly beheaded by an Al-Quaeda terrorist in Afghanistan some eighteen months before the story begins. Senior Chief Javier Corbray is a Navy SEAL in charge of the ground crew on a mission to capture the terrorist responsible.

Javier and Laura have history. Nearly two years prior to her abduction, they met in Dubai and had a wild no-strings fling (which is documented in the self-published prequel novella First Strike). Two months after that weekend, Laura was abducted. Javier has made it his business to get his guns in on the mission to capture the man responsible and it is with amazed delight that he finds Laura isn’t dead at all. The SEALs effect a daring rescue and Laura is restored to her Swedish family.

Fast forward another two years – Laura is now working for the Denver Independent on their prestigious I-Team and trying to get her life together after her ordeal. She testifies against the man who held her captive for eighteen months at his trial held in Washington. After her testimony, he calls for the faithful to kill her, which call is unfortunately widely publicised by the media, and Laura is again at risk. Meantime, Javier is also in Denver, visiting his old buddy Nate West (husband of Megan (Skin Deep), sister to Marc Hunter  from Unlawful Contact) as he recovers from serious wounds he sustained in a mission gone wrong, and PTSD (about which he is in denial).

Laura and Javier meet up again and when a bomb blast nearly kills her, Javier decides he needs to stick close to protect this special woman who made an indelible impact on his heart nearly four years earlier. Laura has recovered physically and has had intensive therapy to assist in her recovery from the torment of her captivity. She was regularly beaten and raped and threatened daily with beheading. She was so traumatised, when the SEALs found her, she barely remembered her own name. She is an extremely strong woman but she does not believe she will be able to engage in physical intimacy again and there are secrets marked on her body she wants to keep very private.

Those with triggers about sexual violence and violence against women may wish to avoid this one. While the rapes are not at all graphically detailed, there is a fair amount of violence toward Laura detailed throughout the course of the book. I felt the trauma of her captivity was handled sensitively and realistically (bearing in mind this is fiction and I’m not an expert in such things) and I didn’t think the violence later in the book was gratuitous but there is enough of it that it deserves a warning for those who dislike such things in their reading.

It is difficult to say more about the plot without giving away spoilers. The path to Laura’s and Javier’s happy ending is not at all smooth, there is much danger and heartache for Laura and not everything can be wrapped up in a neat little bow. There were parts of the story, particularly near the end which had me in tears. Rest assured there is a romantic HEA but readers will probably need tissues handy because the story is not just about the romance.

Javier doesn’t expect anything from Laura but as they start to get closer, their old attraction sparks.  It does take a long time before the pair become intimate and even then, there are certain things which are off limits for a long time.  I liked that their sex life was portrayed as full and mutually satisfying even when it wasn’t “tab A into slot B” sex and I enjoyed Javier’s creativity.  (Also, I never knew shaving could be so sexy. Oh mama!)

I liked that you depicted Muslims as people, not stereotypes, and that you  were respectful of their culture and made it clear, without being preachy about it,  that the vast majority of them are not terrorists and do not support terrorism.

There were moments of humour amongst the darkness of the main story – when Javier gets caught naked when Laura is skyping had me chuckling, and little things like this made me smile as well:

Javier opened her makeup kit, held it edge-to-edge with the dressing table, and swept everything—every vial, brush, tube, and bottle—into the kit with his forearm.

Laura gaped at him. “That stuff is worth hundreds of dollars.”

He shrugged, then shut the kit. “That’s how SEALs pack makeup.”

Many of the previous I-Team couples featured in the book and, for the most part, their presence was necessary to the plot and furthered the story.  Zach (Breaking Point) and Nate featured fairly prominently and Laura and Megan bonded over shared traumatic experiences.  Julian Darcangelo (Hard Evidence) and Marc Hunter continue their bromance – it was a fun, lighter part of the story but again, I felt it didn’t intrude on the main tale.

I did pick what was happening about two thirds of the way through – I felt some of the clues were kind of obvious, just in the placement of seemingly random conversations in the book more than anything – I suppose the villain was fairly one-note but [redacted] was a sociopath so I wasn’t bothered by any lack of nuance there.  I guessed Laura’s secret very early but that did not detract from the emotional resonance at all.  There was perhaps one thing I would have liked covered off/made more explicit but to say more would be, I think, too spoilerish.   Even so, near the end, things took me a little by surprise.  I suppose they shouldn’t have in the circumstances but the story fell out really in the only workable way and I appreciated that you kept it real.  Sure there were SEALs and private security people and various law enforcement personnel doing fairly spectacular things from time to time in the book, but I put that in the “heightened reality” category rather than “unbelievable”.  I think it was because the rest of the story had that realism, I was able to enjoy the near-superhero -ness of some of the characters – but even then, I felt you kept them from straying into “ridiculous-land”.

There were times, more particularly toward the end of the book where I felt some things were a little rushed.  I tried to find an excerpt to demonstrate what I meant but they were all too spoilerish.  It wasn’t a huge deal but those bits were a little less smooth and polished than the rest of the book.

There aren’t that many romance novels which feature a non-white hero and I appreciated Javier’s ethnicity was built into the story – neither fetishized or ignored.  So too was Laura’s Swedish connection.  I think you have a knack for writing with cultural sensitivity (it was something I particularly appreciated in Naked Edge as well).

I can rely on you to provide a cracking good read with believable and diverse characters, deeply romantic and emotional.  While I felt there was a bit of telegraphing in relation to the villain, Striking Distance is a winner. I give it a B+.

regards,
Kaetrin

 

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Kaetrin started reading romance as a teen and then took a long break, detouring into fantasy and thrillers. She returned to romance in 2008 and has been blogging since 2010. She reads contemporary, historical, a little paranormal, urban fantasy and romantic suspense, as well as erotic romance and more recently, new adult. She loves angsty books, funny books, long books and short books. The only thing mandatory is the HEA. Favourite authors include Mary Balogh, Susanna Kearsley, Joanna Bourne, Tammara Webber, Kristen Ashley, Shannon Stacey, Sarah Mayberry, JD Robb/Nora Roberts, KA Mitchell, Marie Sexton, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, just to name a few. You can find her on Twitter: @kaetrin67.

10 Comments

  1. mari
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 11:08:27

    Thanks for the warning about the violence against Laura. This sounds like a great book that I will never ever read. I just find as I get older and older my tolerance for graphic depictions of violence directed toward women and children becames less and less. Of course it would be artistically very very lame to have a woman kidnapped by Al Quaida and NOT be abused, so in terms if storytelling it makes sense., I just can’t deal with it personally.
    Anyway, I am very appreciative of the warning.

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  2. Patricia Eimer
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 11:32:17

    Love this series and since I preordered this book I’m glad to see that it’s getting good reviews.

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  3. Sophie
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 11:35:08

    Well thought out review. Thank you especially for the warning. I agree with Mari’s sentiments as well. I don’t have the desire to read about horrific rape and torture against anyone, men or women. There’s so much in the news that we already hear about Al Quaida and the abuse against their people and anyone who dares goes against them as it is, that I don’t find it entertaining to read about it in my fiction, especially romance. I’m sure the book is extremely well written and will appeal to readers who like that theme, but I read romance for escapism, as the realities of life are all too clear around us and we are bombarded with it in the news as it is. I appreciate it when a review tells us up front about these elements in a book.

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  4. Sue V
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 12:49:22

    Thank you for your well-thought review, Kaetrin. I have been looking forward to “Striking Distance” for over a year now, and your review cements its status as one of the most anticipated books for me to read EVER. I am usually very good at sensing who the villain will be in most romantic suspense, but I was clueless to the identity of the “puppet master” villain in Ms. Clare’s previous I-Team book, until he was revealed by the heroine’s deductions. For that reason, I hope I will be as surprised by the revelation of the villain in “Striking Distance.”

    The violence aspect for me will not be a problem, being that I accept that the world is populated with people who are terrible, violent and downright soul-destroying. I can read fiction about those types as long as I know that in the end, karma will bite them where it hurts and they will be paying for it for a very long time. I have read all of Ms. Clare’s I-Team and MacKinnon’s Rangers novels and novellas, and I know she’ll handle the violence and trauma portions with the same deftness she has shown in her other books.

    I look forward to reading your future reviews.

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  5. Heather
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 13:49:18

    I’ve read this book…and yes, there is violence against Laura…as someone said…anyone captured by Al Quaida would be. However, I didn’t find it over the top…the violence was written about, sure, but nothing too graphic, imho. Of course, this isn’t something the author could have left out of the book…it’s integral to the story, so it was necessary.

    When Mari said “This sounds like a great book that I will never ever read”…it made me so sad…I think you would enjoy it Mari…the violence happened, yes, but I really don’t think it is over the top. Also, it’s done in the past (for the most part), so you learn about it mainly through Laura’s remembrances of it, it’s part of the emotions of the story, and you really see what a survivor she is…and she comes through it…and her emotional recovery is a tribute to the strong woman that she is. Then Javier…his gentleness and treatment of her, knowing what she’s been through…well…it’s just WOW.

    I also want to avoid any spoilers, so I’ll have to curb many of my comments, especially about the last 1/4 of the book. But I will say this is probably one of the most emotionally powerful stories I’ve read in a VERY long time.

    Personally…I’d give this book a solid “A”. It touched all my emotions…and was a REALLY well written book!

    Best,
    Heather

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  6. JoJo
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 14:32:12

    Kaetrin, great review.
    Heather and Sue V, I really appreciate your comments.

    As a Pamela Clare fan, I am really anxious to read Striking Distance. Ms Clare always weaves real life issues into her books but they are never gratuitous in their presentation. For me, her books have opened my eyes to many issues, especially with regards to women, that are usually swept under the carpet (for example, birthing rights for woman inmates in Unlawful Contact). Ms Clare is a genius at crafting a story with heart, substance, humor, intelligence and a HEA.

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  7. TrishJ
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 15:47:56

    Great review. I have read all the I Team books and love the suspense and action they have. Her characters seem life like, even faced with horrific circumstances. They don’t always make the correct decisions, they make human mistakes. I have been eagerly waiting for this book, even more after this review.

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  8. mari
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 15:56:51

    Hmmmm, so glad I have been following this thread. I didn’t realize that this was the same Pamela Clare that has been writing the French Indian war historicals. Those are some POWERFUL reads even though the graphic torture and overall bloodiness made me squirm. I may have to reconsider my stance, although there’s something about contemporary violence I find more off-putting than historical violence.

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  9. Kaetrin
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 17:09:35

    As I said in the review, I didn’t find the violence particularly graphic – there weren’t blow-by-blow descriptions for example of Laura’s experiences during her capture. So for those worried about detailed descriptions of rape, there’s no need to be concerned. But, I also know that some people just don’t like reading about women who are raped or beaten for any reason, hence my warning. I really don’t think one could write a remotely believable story about being a woman captured by Al Quaeda and not include some description of violence.

    @mari: It’s very much up to you whether you decide the potential squirm factor would be too much for you. I can say that it is a great book and I trust Ms. Clare to take me to potentially squirmy places when I would not do so for other authors. I don’t know if that helps you or not. :)

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  10. Lindsay
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 19:25:37

    Another thank-you for the warning! I am really enjoying the I-team books (starting from the first and working my way through) but knowing something like that is coming will let me judge whether or not I am up for it on a given day. Clare’s writing is excellent and I trust her to handle things with the gravity required, but with another author it can be an auto-nope for me because I just plain don’t enjoy it to the point where it will be a DNF.

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