REVIEW: Hard to Hold by Stephanie Tyler
Dear Ms. Tyler:
I was pretty excited to read your stand alone romantic suspense. I think it did a great job of blending the suspense and the romance. It was full of sexual tension but it also had a strong emotional impact even if I did think the villain was a little overwrought and the insertion of the father figure with his … ah, magical abilities, was a bit jarring.
Here’s what I thought the book presented in terms of each of the main characters: Do you want to live or do you want to die. Your subconscious knows the answer and dictates your actions. Change your course means coming to grips with living. Dying is easy.
Isabelle Markham is a talented plastics doctor who decided the regular practice wasn’t for her. She began to volunteer for Doctors Without Borders. During her last trip, she was taken hostage by her bodyguard, left for dead and was rescued by Lt. Jake Hansen. The physical exploits are laid out so simply, without gloss, that it makes Jake seem all the more heroic. He runs several miles, through difficult and dangerous terrain to get to a helicopter landing site, carrying Isabelle all the way.
“Are you going to keep fighting, Isabelle? Or am I in this alone” Jake asks her during the rescue. Isabelle asks him in return to share one of the worst things that he has done in his life so that she can feel comfortable unburdening herself. She tells him that she welcomed her captor into her arms and into her body so that she wouldn’t be violated. During the rescue, Isabelle asks him to kiss her. “I don’t want to die knowing that the last man who touched me hurt me.”
And so he does and it forges a connection between the two. When the two return to the States, Jake resumes his life, trying to forget about Isabelle.
Hostage found. Medical performed.
Held hostage’s hnd.
Lost my fucking mind and kissed the hostage. Repeatedly.
Jake is better at diagnosing Isabelle’s neurosis than his own. She maintains to herself, even after the rescue mission is over, that she was never raped; that she consented. Jake knows differently. He rescued her. He saw her naked, beaten and bloodied body. He knows that her control was taken from her. He knows that she was violated. He also knows that until she can come to grips with that, she can never be truly with him.
Jake and Isabelle are really well drawn and delicately so. By that I mean that their layers are pulled away fairly slowly and we see them evolve before our eyes. Jake is grappling with his past and feels that Isabelle is too fine to be with a man who killed his own father. He suffers quite a bit of insecurity in this regard.
Isabelle says to her mother that Jake is the only one who treats her as if she is whole. Her fierceness, what made her get through the hostage situation, the rape, the aftermath, what propels her forward is all of what attracts Jake to her. His silent strength and acceptance is what she needs. She is the storm and he is the port.
This is not an uncomplicated plot and there are many characters that are introduced (maybe too many?) Isabelle’s mother is a senator. Her past was complicated. Isabelle’s mother has a relationship with Admiral Callahan who is Jake’s superior and ordered Jake to watch over her. There is a secondary romance that I can see evolving over the three books. There is some mystical crap going on with Jake’s adopted father. There is the relationship between the three adopted brothers. And all of that seemed extraneous to the story. It was build up for the series, but affected the two main protagonists and even the plot almost none at all. I think they could have been removed and I wouldn’t have even noticed. I liked Jake and Isabelle so much I wanted to spend my time exclusively with them. Their chemistry was palpable.
Having said that, this book (and I predict this series) is highly addictive. I know I am interested and anxious for the next story. B-