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REVIEW: Death Angel by Linda Howard

Dear Ms. Howard:

book review I was ruminating about this book as I polished up the review. At first I thought, this is a departure for you because it is such a dark book, featuring a very different type of heroine. But you’ve had darker books before (Cry No More) and you’ve featured different types of heroines (Duncan’s Bride) so it’s not really those attributes that set this book apart from the others in the Linda Howard library. I can’t pinpoint it, but this read like a different Linda Howard. Not bad different, just different.

Drea Rousseau is smart woman who made some poor decisions and ended up being the girlfriend of a drug lord. She’s used her body as currency most of her life and when her boyfriend, Rafael Salinas, hands her over as payment to an hired assassin, she’s broken.

It’s not that she loved Salinas nor that she thought of herself so highly. It’s that in the four hours in which the assassin beds her, she feels more and wants more than she has ever in her whole life. She begs him to take her with him when he leaves and he responds with ‘Why . . . once was enough”. And walks out.

After spending herself in a river of tears, Drea decides that she’s had enough. She gathers up her possessions, robs Salinas blind and disappears. When Salinas first discovers her gone, he thinks she has been kidnapped but then uncovers the truth and hires the self same assassin to find her and kill her.

Drea and the assassin play a short cat and mouse game in which Drea is at a great disadvantage despite her intelligence. It’s a game she’s destined to lose and she believes it which ultimately leads to her demise but she is given a second chance at life.

Drea is a great character and her sense of desperation, her utter loss of self, is really heartwrenching. As a reader I cheered for her to survive, to win another chance at the game. I loved that Drea was really a bad girl. She wasn’t with Salinas because of some coercion. She wanted to be there. She liked the lifestyle. She used her person ruthlessly to get what she wanted out of life but Drea was likeable despite, or maybe even because of, her lifestyle decisions.

This is one of the better Howard books I’ve read in a long time and I appreciate the dark characters, but the thing that really held me back from loving this book was the paranormal aspect. I thought it was kind of shortcut in bringing about the emotional change that created such a line of demarcation in both Drea and the assassin’s lives. The paranormal aspect allowed Drea to make the change into doing something worthwhile with her life but it seemed like the easy way out.

One commenter noted the other day that the book included very little about the hero. I think that was an intentional exclusion but it is worth noting that the hero is fairly occluded and mysterious throughout the whole story. It would have been nice to have had greater insight into his motivations and what brought him to Drea, particularly since what is considered to be a hallmark of a Linda Howard novel are her great male characterizations.

One other comment I’d like to make is that the official blurb of this book is a bit misleading because it suggests that Drea teams up with the FBI but that doesn’t really play a big part in the book at all (and I thought that the FBI scenes didn’t add much to the story). B-

Best regards

Jane

This book can be purchased in hard cover from Amazon or Powells. Ebook formats to come.

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

39 Comments

  1. Meriam
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 06:42:53

    This sounds brilliant. Where’s the catch?!

    After her last book, which was as tepid and un-Howard a book as I’ve read by the author, this sounds fresh and daring, and something I’d like to read. Thanks for the review!

  2. Robin
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 10:39:45

    I was reading along, soaking up the review, thinking, “well, maybe,” and then I hit the paragraph about the paranormal aspects of the book. PARANORMAL??!! Like it’s not enough to write a good suspenseful novel about a woman who sells herself to an assassin? Oy.

    One question: does Drea gain self-esteem through the book? Howard can seriously debilitate her heroines emotionally, IMO, through the sheer alphaness of the hero, and this is a woman who seems pretty down to begin with.

    Also, who IS the hero?

  3. vanessa jaye
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 10:41:40

    Uh-ho. I bought this book on Friday (and I almost never buy books in hardback), still reveiwers looks like it might have some minor spoilish stuff, so I’m going to skip it, but glad to see it got a high grade.

  4. che
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 10:59:51

    I almost gave up on reading this because there was so much telling and less showing for about the first two-thirds of the book. We are being told in excruciating detail about how Drea is plotting her escape, planning to steal the money and to move such huge sums around, then more excruciating details of actually doing the same. As if it weren’t enough, we get Simon (the assassin) chiming in on what he thought Drea would do every step of the way. It almost became a how-to manual. I’m aware some people thought the same about her previous book, Up Close and Dangerous, which I haven’t read.

    Then there’s the opening sex scene very early in the book. Two points- one: I consider the author the master (mistress?) of sexual tension, and felt she sacrificed that. I don’t know what it was about Drea that attracted Simon in the first place. It seemed to me the purpose of the sex was more to mess with the drug-lord bf rather than his desire for her. I just didn’t feel invested in the relationship.

    The second point, a question I want to ask- did you think it skirted close to the R word? We learn about Simon’s intentions only after the fact, then there is Drea’s response which probably made it “not count” as rape.

    Then there’s the fact, near the end of the book, when he told Drea that he couldn’t honestly say that he wouldn’t still have gone ahead and killed her, if not for the accident. He was lured by the 2 mil, dontcha know. I know some readers are attracted by such dark heroes. Not me. I can’t see anything romantic about an unrepentant assassin.

  5. romsfuulynn
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 11:00:32

    The first sex scene is pretty transgressive and might be triggering for some people. It worked for me on a number of levels, and it is hardly new territory for Howard, who is never a “sweet” author.

    I talked about this in a “What are you reading this week” in a LibraryThing romance group. My takeaway was “I loved it. But I think you will be able to track sales from the exploding heads.”

  6. Jane
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 11:08:46

    Yes, the first sex scene or series of sex scenes are a bit disturbing but it worked for the set up and sets forth a very dark tone for the book. I thought at first it was going to be rape but I also got the sense that Drea was used to selling her person and thus this wasn’t really coerced.

    Howard is very detail oriented. I noticed in her previous book, the plane one, that each step of the survival is laid out in step by step fashion.

    I think Drea begins to recover her self esteem after the first or second chapter. It wasn’t that Drea didn’t have a good sense of self, she just didn’t see herself as extending beyond her person. She was kind of a selfish person. A nice person, but a selfish one.

    The hero is the assassin.

  7. Meriam
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 11:32:55

    I was reading along, soaking up the review, thinking, “well, maybe,” and then I hit the paragraph about the paranormal aspects of the book. PARANORMAL??!! Like it's not enough to write a good suspenseful novel about a woman who sells herself to an assassin? Oy.

    Well, I guess that’s the catch. Still, I bought it. Heroine is the girlfriend of a drug lord? And knows it? A selfish heroine? Cool! I just hope she doesn’t give all her money to charity at the end…

    It almost became a how-to manual. I'm aware some people thought the same about her previous book, Up Close and Dangerous, which I haven't read.

    The detail oriented last novel was a near wall-banger for me. I thought it was incredibly lazy story telling. Hope DA is better.

  8. che
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 11:38:27

    Cool! I just hope she doesn't give all her money to charity at the end…

    You really want to know?

  9. Meriam
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 12:48:39

    Oh, dear.

    Well, I guess a romance heroine is a romance heroine and not even Linda Howard is going to push the envelope beyond a certain limit. I’m going to read it tonight and see what I think.

  10. FanLit
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 12:53:40

    I was reading along, soaking up the review, thinking, “well, maybe,” and then I hit the paragraph about the paranormal aspects of the book. PARANORMAL??!!

    Many people keep using the word paranormal. A paranormal book is about vampires or ghosts on earth. That’s clearly not the case here. Saying more would go into spoiler territory. I think a better word would be mystical or spiritual – without being religious. Secondly, the whole mystical aspect worked for me. Drea was scarred by what happened to her as a 15 year old and this section of the book allowed her to make sense of it. The mysticism was also a hopeful storyline: If we could see someone we love and know there was only one way to be with them again, wouldn’t we jump at the chance to change our ways. Last, I think we can all agree that falling in love with an assassin is not realistic. However, this is fiction and LH made the story work.

  11. Jolie Dreyson
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 14:06:26

    Bleh. I think I’ll skip it. I don’t care for the dark heroes. But glad Howard is trying something different.

  12. katiebabs
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 14:33:18

    I saw this at Borders and had to hold back buying it. But as I flipped through the pages and I was so happy because it looks like Howard is back!
    I sure do like dark stories with dark and angsty characters.

  13. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 15:05:38

    Sounds glorious. Love Linda Howard, dark suspense, edgy sex scenes and cold assassin heroes. Can’t wait.

  14. Phyl
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 16:44:41

    I liked this book. A lot. I agree with FanLit–it’s mystical/spiritual, not paranormal. One reads enough near-death stories in the news to make what happens to Drea/Andie plausible. I find it difficult to say more about this book because it’s easy to enter spoiler territory. At any rate, kudos to Howard for writing a very different sort of book. You may hate it, but it is in no way run-of-the-mill. I’ll be buying this one next year when it comes out in MM.

  15. kathie
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 18:44:16

    I felt that if you were going to have an assassin as a “hero” – which I don’t have a problem with, at all – just explain what was so extraordinary about the heroine that made him change so. I didn’t get that. From the perspective of Drea/Andie – I thought the book was great – showed real growth in her character. I’d recommend the book to any Linda Howard fan, I just came away wanting to know more about the guy.

  16. Gennita Low
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 20:31:31

    Really enjoyed this book! I thought the near-death experience was interesting in that it was so extreme. To me, this was as close to an allegory as one could get to write in a romance–the names, from Simon Goodnight to Simon Cross, Andie Butts being a play on “AND DIE, But…,” the tree branch, so many symbols the English Major in me was starting to take notes to write a paper about the book ;-). Yet, it worked for me because it’s Linda Howard.

    I also didn’t mind the heavy symbolism because it wasn’t too preachy. The assassin was an interesting character study, becoming more “human” when he found that he could care for a person after all. The ending was a bit too abrupt and easy, though, but again, it worked.

    Can’t wait to worship at La Linda’s feet as she signs my copy at RWA.

  17. Meriam
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 05:15:35

    Okay, I read the first half last night and went to bed with a massive Headach of Annoyance.

    SPOILERS AHOY!

    From Material Girl to Touched by an Angel? Gah!

    I guess it could be allegory – also see Linda’s great post on Didactic fiction.

    It’s a toss up for when I was more exasperated – when Andie is saved because of her ‘pure maternal love’ or when the assassin stumbles into church and contemplates his black soul.

    Actually, the most unforgiveable thing of all imo is the writing. When did Howard lose the ability to tell a story? There are pages and pages of thoughts and description and detail. And it’s incredibly dull and often unstructured, stream of consciousness stuff (and let’s face it, An-DIE is no Mrs Dalloway).

    Genre fiction – romantic suspense – should be driven by action, snappy diologue and some more action. Why are there pages, pages, pages of Andie’s thoughts? Andie’s rambling, uninteresting, fatuous, repetitive thoughts?

    Should her internal monologue really be driving the action? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

    Anyway, I’m still carrying the headache. I will read the rest of the book and see if it redeems itself.

  18. DS
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 08:41:45

    I read a very interesting review on Amazon– it’s not one of the five star ones– that used the word allegory– and I knew I was not going to be breaking my long line of unpurchased and unread Howard books.

    As far as I am concerned, paranormal applies to anything outside the mundane. That includes ghosts, angels, demons, and bright lights on the road to Damascus.

  19. Krista
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 11:54:58

    Ok did anyone else find the “plot point that went nowhere” odd?

    Spoiler!

    After the death thing, Drea comes back with the ability to see “things” about people. I get that she can use it for good, etc. But I thought it was randomly placed in there, never really questioned by the main characters, and didn’t really impact the story all that much. The whole time I was reading I was waiting for it to matter that she has these vision like things but it never really did. Bugged the crap out of me.

  20. FanLit
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 15:10:02

    Ok did anyone else find the “plot point that went nowhere” odd?

    I didn’t find it odd, since it was referenced in the book. Remember how Drea explained researching the subject of near-death experiences and how some people came back with precognition. That said, it would have made sense to have her new-found ability play a larger role in the story.

    I felt that if you were going to have an assassin as a “hero” – which I don't have a problem with, at all – just explain what was so extraordinary about the heroine that made him change so.

    I don’t think Simon changed because there was something extraordinary about Drea, but because of what happened in the car accident. Since I’m in spoiler territory here, I want to be somewhat vague: Simon changed because Drea survived. He knew the time lapse involved in getting medical help, so he began to believe that perhaps there is an after-life. Therefore, in order to remain in Drea’s life, Simon had to make some changes in his own life.

  21. Meriam
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 15:58:18

    I actually can’t bear to open the book again. I don’t understand why I’ve taken such a violent dislike to it, except to say that I feel a little cheated.

    I began it thinking “it’s great an author of Howard’s stature can take a risk with her characters” and I ended up up last night with my face contorted into a grimace of displeasure (plus, that headache). It seems the only way you can redeem a heroine whose made bad choices and used sex to get what she wants, is by involving angels ad death and reminding us of her intrinsic goodness because she felt a ‘mother’s love.’ Way to reduce your character to a pair of ovaries. (so what else is new in romance).

    Speaking of Amazon reviews, this snippet pretty much captured my feelings (is it okay to quote if I reference it?):

    The frustrating part of this novel is that too much attention is devoted to the insignificant details … and not enough time to real characterization techniques through dialogue and interactions so readers can appreciate the characters fully. The hero/heroine have very few scenes together; any “bond” they have is superficial and undeveloped. The action/suspense elements in the novel are lacking: no clever action scenes, no intense scenes between the hero and the heroine confronting the the drug king, no real description into the inner workings of the criminal world, no real drama

    Yep. I might have gone along with it if I was even remotely invested in the relationships and the story.

  22. Ann Bruce
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 20:19:13

    It seems the only way you can redeem a heroine whose made bad choices and used sex to get what she wants, is by involving angels and death and reminding us of her intrinsic goodness because she felt a ‘mother's love.'

    I just got the book today and now I want to cry. And I was so excited to read about a bad-ass heroine! Guess I’ll have to re-read Kelley Armstrong’s Haunted.

  23. Susan
    Jul 10, 2008 @ 10:41:16

    I don’t know if my note is a spoiler or not; I am comparing it to previous Linda books. I really enjoyed this book, so please read the book and form your own opinion if you have it or plan to buy or read it.

    I always love Linda Howard and LOVE her to reread. I now classify books in my mind by their reread potential. Linda is on my reread list.

    Anyways, after thinking about this book and then rereading SLOWLY which is totally the opposite of my regular speed of reading HOT OFF THE PRESS books, I decided I like it more and more. It is in a similar category to Cry No More and Son of the Morning. By that I mean the heroes are doing what they do, because it is necessary. It is almost like Linda stuck her toe in that water (Son of the Morning) then walked in up to her knees (Cry No More) and then in the deep end in Death Angel.

    In Son of the Morning, I still was hooked on Grace’s newly dead husband and had a hard time getting into the hero. Also, he wasn’t super friendly in a heroic romance way at first; he was all about keeping to his quest. In their first true sex scene, she is not sure whether he is going to kill her or not, and as a reader I never was sure he knew either.

    In Cover of Night, Diaz is truly pretty much working for good, but doing things that are not considered in a civilized world, the “good thing” to do. But he really bonds with Milla, and they are very similar in their approach. He becomes more “lovable” as she grieves in NC and he takes care of her.

    By Death Angel, we meet a hero that truly has the goodness of love for Andie as what keeps him from being utterly “beyond the pale” to quote Regency terminology. But again, Linda makes it believable and understandable…this man doesn’t prey on you and me, but on the really big bad fish. The ones we really don’t want around.

    Segue here: in my area a couple of twenty year old women were sentenced yesterday for stalking an elderly lady from the grocery to her home where the jumped her, threw bleach in her face and robbed her. I believe she is 87 years old. Now, who is morally more empty, them, or our character in Death Angel? I see the point Linda went for when she took us down that path with him.

    Love the site.

  24. Throwmearope
    Jul 11, 2008 @ 14:59:31

    Uh, Susan, Diaz and Milla are in Cry No More. I went into Death Angel thinking it was the story of the ambiguously bad villain of Cover of Night. Read the whole book still thinking that and loved it. I was very surprised to check the villain’s many aliases and discover that my assumption was wrong. Doesn’t matter, love LH frothy (Blair is the most outstanding heroine I can recall), funny or dark. Just wish she had a website for upcoming books.

  25. MPH
    Jul 11, 2008 @ 16:07:08

    I guess I must be simpler than most. I know the synopsis leads us all to believe it is action-pack and all but I was not disturbed that it wasn’t. The lack of action (the story’s not about that and it’s definitely not about being romantic), the lack of info on Simon (he wasn’t really “human” before Andie), the lack of time spent together between hero & herione (they were always thinking of each other hence the “droning” and “monlogue”), lack of result with FBI (shows Andie that she cannot find her worth there) didn’t bother me at all.

    This story was so dark in many ways. I was completely wrapped up in how the Andie and Simon were coming back to life – how each begin to question their worth and then try to redeem themself ( for Andie, sacrificing her life. For Simon, no longer killing.) They both failed in their plans. In the end, you/they accept that perhaps there is no way of knowing, that perhaps the only prove is in how deeply you loved and were loved in your life. (My heart nearly broke when Simon accepts that there may be no redemption for him but as long as he had her in this lifetime, it was all he ask for.)

    I liked the story alot – it’s not the best but it’s definitely felt it’s mark on me. Cry No More made me cry but this one left me shaken. Still.

    mph

  26. Susan
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 09:08:52

    Shoot, I caught the error and retyped (or so I think!) Cry No More in place of Cover of Night and it is not there. So did I do it? Am I losing it?
    I am with you: Throwmerope: I actually read the preview/excerpt on Amazon, then went and pulled out Cover of Night and reread, then assumed it was the same guy. But that guy was Chicago based, so I decided it wasn’t him. I didn’t think of the alias possibility…duh of me.
    MPH: Totally am with you about our hero. It breaks me up to think of that thought process.
    RE: Cry No More. I reread that too. Wow, what a gut puncher.

  27. Ann Bruce
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 12:42:05

    Finished DEATH ANGEL over the weekend…and the book didn’t live up to the synopsis. The story felt slow and I found my attention wandering numerous times. The characters had such great potential, but the paranormal shortcut kind of killed them for me. (And I was little irked by the whole “a mother’s love is the purest form of love” crap. So, does that make women who can’t have children lesser people?)

    As a reader, I think I’ve outgrown LH. *tear* I’ll go back to re-reading her southern pot-boilers.

  28. Tazallie
    Jul 15, 2008 @ 06:57:46

    Jane I would just like to thank you for your review of this book, without it I would not have read it at all. I agree with your comment that the official blurb for this book is misleading, and is what in fact had been stopping me from reading this wonderful novel. The Back blurb just made the book seem …just another romantic story, when in fact it is very much more than that, the FBI portion is just a secondary filler to give motivation to the heroes actions.

    I work for a small independent bookseller in the uk and a lot of my customers have come to rely on me for recommendations as they know I am an avid reader. I am sad to say I know I wouldnt have recomdended this book, but when the paperback (sorry Ms Howard but we dont stock hardbacks)comes out it will be on the shelf.

    What I like about this book is the fact that both the hero and heroine are like they are not because they are inherently bad but because they took the easier of lifes options, and they both know that and arent looking for redemption in the normal sense of the word, but are looking for a true second chance. Not a page turner but a thought provoking read…or at least it was for me.

  29. Jane
    Jul 15, 2008 @ 08:23:48

    I’m so glad that there are indie booksellers that push romances. it seems those are few and far between.

  30. Tazallie
    Jul 15, 2008 @ 08:42:50

    We are out there! But we may be slightly different in that we try to cater to niche genres such as romance, paranormal, fantasy, LGBT, historicals etc..we carry the blockbusters but we have dedicated sections to the smaller genres…cos the big stores tend to side line them…their loss our gain!

    I have only just stumbled on this site but fully intend to use it for my own and work related reading. I have just spend this afternoon compiling a list of what to read based on some of the reviews here. So thanks to you all, your work is appreciated.

  31. HAZEL EYES
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 23:35:45

    I read this book twice. It’s a wonderful book. I wish Linda Howard had a web-site. All the Authors I read have email(newsletter). It would be nice to beable to communicate with Linda.

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  33. Elvira
    Mar 07, 2009 @ 17:41:56

    The book worked for me on so many levels. I have read it cover to cover twice.

    I have literally read all of Howard's books, and have found quite a few that I did not enjoy so much: “Up Close and Personal” and “Open Season”. I have also found a few that I LOVE: “All The Queen's Men” and “After The Night”. This book is in my list of Howard's best.

    Yes, the hero initially slept with Drea to mess with the drug lord's head, but her scent stayed with him. He could not shake it off. He began to fall in love with her vulnerability and her intelligence. He loved here because her life was not golden but her heart was soft. I believe that he liked her because she was something he is not…..and because he gave himself an opportunity to connect with her.

    The hero is quite dark, but he is also a lover. He is supposed to be this very unfeeling, uncaring perfect killing machine, but he cried when she died. He was unsure of himself whenever he was around her. He went out of his way to make sure she was safe and happy. I believe that he loves Drea more than she does him, which is not uncommon in Howard books.

    I don't believe that he would have killed her for 2 million. He usually distances himself from people. He could have just shot Drea from a roof top, but he did not. Instead, he followed her for days and engaged in a high speed highway chase. That is unlike him. By following Drea, he created a familiarity, a connection. He could not have killed her.

  34. Virgie
    Jul 31, 2009 @ 07:31:46

    I’m just now finishing up on reading this book. I want to say “I didn’t like it.” But I did. I just had problems with the sex scene starting so early in the beginning of the novel. Also, their way of foreplay came across more as a form of rape even though Drea’s responses to him spoke otherwise.

    I really however, enjoyed their connection toward the end of the novel. I must admit at the beginning of the novel I really didn’t like Drea. She actually reminded me of the annoying character Amber from the Young and the Restless. But she started to grow on me when I realized how much smarter she was when compared to the character Amber.

    And regarding the spiritual part of the book. I’m a somewhat religious person and I must admit I was kind of thrown off by it coming up in this secular novel. But I believe it added more to Drea’s character then less. You saw her more as a vulnerable individual or a person others could possibly relate to as oppose to a dense bimbo.

    Overall it was a good book.

  35. babyblue
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 19:13:32

    i loved this book,it’s one of my favourits ever,and it’s especially cause the hero and the heroine are not ussual.this world doesn’t consist of only good people,there are people who don’t have many plausible charachteristics and that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be happy and find someone that loves them despite everything.that kind of thinking is a bit narrowminded.

  36. lovemepleaz
    Dec 30, 2010 @ 13:03:09

    i totally didnt like this book. it started off so good and then it went downhill fron there. i hated the paranormal aspect of the book. and i dont believe that the assasin should have killed in the end because he was trying to change his life and then he went back and did the same thing. there was also no mention of love from the assasin whatsoever!!!!

  37. lovemepleaz
    Dec 30, 2010 @ 13:06:17

    @Ann Bruce: i totally agree with you. the paranormal aspect just wasnt needed

  38. lovemepleaz
    Dec 30, 2010 @ 13:07:32

    @Robin: i agree with you soooo much!!!

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