REVIEW: Stop Me by Brenda Novak
Dear Ms. Novak:
I liked the first book in this series, Trust Me, and I’ll definitely read the last book in this trilogy but the second entry, Stop Me, had issues that were difficult for me to overcome. The suspense part of the book was very good but the romance felt forced.
Jasmine Stratford receives a box with a bracelet that once belonged to her younger sister, taken from the family sixteen years ago. In the box was a note that said “Stop Me.” Jasmine decides to go to New Orleans on the basis of the cancellation stamp on the package to search for more clues about her sister’s disappearance. Once there, Jasmine learns of Romain Fornier and his daughter’s abduction, sexual assault and ultimate murder. Fornier, a former military man, had shot his daughter’s abuser when it looked like the pedophile was going to get off on a technicality.
He spent a few years in prison and once released, went into social isolation. You did a good job, in just a chapter or so, of setting up Fornier as a man cut off from the world. Then I am confronted with the idea that he could be drawn back into the world by Jasmine and her search for her sister. It seemed too pat for me, even if Romain struggled at times with intimacy. After being in prison and then engaging in extreme self segregation, Romain acted almost too normal for me; too tame. He lives in a shack with no telephone, no internet. He has rare human contact. He lost his wife. His daughter was kidnapped and then killed. He saw a home movie of her being defiled by a man in ways so grotesque and horrible that they were referred to as “unspeakable things.” He feels tremendous guilt over not being able to save his daughter and then comes a woman who is dredging up all these past horrible memories.
Jasmine has some kind of paranormal power. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is. She can sense things from objects but she can also share dreams. She shares a sexy dream with Romain and the next thing I know the two are engaged in heavy sexual banter on the telephone. The immediacy of Romain and Jasmine’s attraction to each other just didn’t work for me in this context.
The suspense part was really good (and scary). The people were very bad. Romain has to also deal with the fact that Jasmine’s investigation into her sister’s abduction might prove he killed the wrong man. You did a good job of throwing the reader off the scent of the bad guy by setting up other plausible scenarios.
I know this is a nitpicky thing but I had a problem with the hero’s name: Romain. It bothered me throughout the story. I kept thinking of him as lettuce. Or salad. I know, it’s probably true to the Creole/Cajun roots of the region but it was very distracting. I think it was JMC who went through an ebook once and changed the name of the hero. That’s what I would have to doing mentally.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Novak novels are not for the squeamish. They contain graphic descriptions of horrible events which serve to illustrate how really bad the bad guys are but are quite stomach turning. I suppose that is part of why some people read suspense and thrillers – for the stomach turning parts. However, in a book where the romance is played up heavily, as it is in Stop Me, I need the romance to be just as good as the stomach turning suspense and in this one, I just could not buy into the pairing. C