Dear Ms. Howard:
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-