Contemporary Romance Challenge: March 2009
Category: Contemporary – Romantic Suspense
Series: Yes – Book 2 of the Ice Series
The job was supposed to be dead easy – hand-deliver some legal papers to billionaire philanthropist Harry Van Dorn’s extravagant yacht, get his signature and be done. But
But there’s someone else on the ship who knows the true depths of Van Dorn’s evil. Peter Jensen is far more than the unassuming personal assistant he pretends to be – he’s a secret operative who will stop at nothing to ensure Harry’s deadly Rule of Seven terror campaign dies with him. But Genevieve’s presence has thrown a wrench into his plans, and now he must decide whether to risk his mission to keep her alive, or allow her to become collateral damage…
I read this book with Taja (of Books and Games blog) as both of us have the rest of this series sitting in the TBR pile, and it’s always nice to buddy-read with someone. Please join me in welcoming Taja, my very first guest blogger.
Please be aware there are spoilers sprinkled throughout our joint-commentary below.
Jace: The story started off very well. Both the leads were interesting characters and I was interested in the plot. Then about half-way into the story, I began to smile. Why? Because the characters, and events that unfolded, became somewhat absurd - the story felt almost like a cartoon – and it continued that way to the end.
I got my hands on Cold As Ice as fast as I could and read it a few days after Black Ice, also in a rush. I had one “huh?” moment and there were two things that annoyed me quite a bit (later in the story) which was the reason I rated it 4 out of 5. Overall, I thought the first-half/two-thirds stronger than the last chapters.
I re-read Cold As Ice for this joint-commentary, and my initial opinion has changed a bit. I guess I was still under the influence of Black Ice when I read Cold As Ice the first time. The “huh?” moment – which was at the back of my mind and which I barely registered the first time – grew considerably in proportion. And it's actually not just a moment, it's quite a lot … I thought the story was so contrived!
So after the second reading, my impression of what I thought was the stronger part of this story, suffered a lot.
Jace: You nailed it! I thought the story was "cartoony" but “contrived" is the better word for it.
The plot and characters
Jace: In the beginning, I totally believed in Peter’s and Genevieve’s characterization. He was inconspicuous and nondescript which totally fit his secret agent role. She was a nervy but smart woman – she put on a brave face and made the best of things. I was interested to continue reading.
Taja: I loved that Peter barely registered with Genevieve as an attractive male the first time she met him. He was a "gray ghost of a man". Totally right for his mission (and a welcome change from what usually happens when the hero and heroine meet). I liked Genevieve and agree with what you said about her. I also liked that she was tall and had to wear contacts because I thought it something different. I was especially intrigued by the first descriptions of her.
Jace: Then, my first problem with the story. Peter vacillated between getting rid of Genevieve and saving her. That man was supposed to be a stone-cold agent; he never failed in carrying out his assignment! Heck, he would even have sex with a man in order to do his job. For him to hesitate in sending Genevieve off the boat (in the first place) and getting rid of her (later) was uncharacteristic, and for me, simply unbelievable.
Taja: This part didn't really work for me either – all this waffling around about killing Genevieve! I think it was supposed to show his inner turmoil over Genevieve but I believed in neither his bestest-agent-evah persona nor in his lover persona, so on the whole, Peter's drama failed to really move me because his conflict seemed a bit out-of-the-blue.
Jace: Sure, he would not hurt an innocent bystander – but he also thought “too bad, she was at the wrong place at the wrong time”. This aspect of his characterization reminded me of 2 other Stuart heroes – in Moonrise and The Widow – both couldn’t decide whether to be cold and ruthless or helping/saving the heroines. However, Peter was a much-improved version of the other two, whom I couldn’t stand!
Taja: Yes, I got that he didn't want to kill an innocent but as bestest-agent-evah, he shouldn't really care about that or find a way to get her off the yacht before it was too late, so I agree with you there. The only saving grace is that I think of Cold As Ice as a romantic suspense so I'm a bit more lax about characterization.
Jace: Genevieve spent most of the story being thrown about, drugged and trussed up, didn’t she? Frankly, she became quite a joke. I also didn’t like how mouthy she was – and you know this is one of my pet peeves.
Taja: *grin* I know about your pet peeve. And I suspected this novel would trigger it - at least near the end. The two annoying things near the end that brought the grade down the first time that I mentioned above? It's because of her. Lord, Genevieve was mouthy just to be mouthy and still hadn't a clue later on. My opinion of her changed from rather intelligent to too-stupid-to-live during the later parts of the story.
Jace: Peter and Genevieve were dancing around each other verbally – this was irritating too. They talked and talked in circles, with no real communication between them.
Taja: I enjoyed most of their conversations and Genevieve's comebacks up to a point. But I agree … I, too, didn't see a real connection between them (which made the ending all the more incredulous).
Jace: I honestly couldn’t see why Peter fell for Genevieve, and she him. Which aspect of her made him fall in love? And what did Genevieve see in him?
Taja: On page 138 there's this sentence in Peter's POV … "He just didn't know if he could live without Genevieve Spenser in this sorry world." And I just didn't know where that came from. [I mean to go back and read his POV scenes up to that point to see what I missed.] On the whole, it was like Genevieve managed to get to him and that was it.
Jace: The villain became increasingly over-the-top as the story progressed. In the end, he reminded me of a cartoon villain.
Taja: I didn't care for the way Stuart established Van Dorn as the villain. As you said, totally over the top. What I did like … he reminded me of the villains in the older James Bond movies who had batshit crazy plans to take over the world. Van Dorn's Rule of Seven fits right in with that, IMO, and I liked that. LOL
Jace: Now that you remind me of those James Bond villains ... yes! LOL Entertaining, yes. Convincing, no.
And my final grouse … Madame Lambert. I seriously couldn’t believe her to be the LEADER of a group of stone-cold, hardass secret agents. Her wishy-washy and regretful thoughts had me cringing. I suppose Stuart purposely made her sympathetic and having a heart – after all, she was getting her own story later. But come on, her characterization was just pathetic.
Taja: Again, why did Madame Lambert worry over having Genevieve killed? She gave the order to start with the mission and if she was worried so much about Genevieve she could have waited. I can't remember reading an explanation why they had to up and leave right then and not wait until Genevieve had left the yacht. (It would have been better all around if I had known the reason why they needed to move just then because it would have helped to alleviate my impression that the whole story was really contrived.)
What worked and what didn’t
Jace: These aspects of the story worked for me:
1. When Peter decided to be ruthless and showed it – that was very good. Yes, he was a cold and ruthless SOB, but he was IN CHARACTER.
2. The writing was good – descriptive, brisk and restrained.
3. It was good to see Bastien and Chloe (of Black Ice) again.
4. I’m curious about the born and bred yakuza, Takashi. I’m looking forward to reading his story.
Taja: I agree with your points, especially 1, 2, and 4. In addition, I liked some of Peter and Genevieve's conversations and I liked their verbal dance around each other (all pre-rescue, and yes, even though I couldn't really see why they were attracted to each other, and I thought the whole situation on the island highly orchestrated).
What I didn't like:
1. I thought the story was really contrived as it got going.
2. Being told again and again how Peter was the most efficient and ruthless agent ever (the same goes for Van Dorn's evilness and Madame Lambert's worrying).
3. The danger was missing because the Committee had “gone soft” and Peter's inner turmoil over killing Genevieve couldn't make up for it since I wasn't really convinced of it.
4. I liked individual parts but the whole story just didn't come together.
5. (on a less grievous note) When Peter threw Genevieve glasses away … that was just plain cruel and unnecessary even if her vision wasn't actually all that bad. I just didn't understand why he did it. It didn't serve anything.
Jace: Overall, this story was not so good for me.
A weak 3 out of 5. I’m ambivalent about this story. It’s an average read, veering towards problematic. Sensuality: Warm+
Taja: I’m definitely grading it lower this time around. I would go with 3 out of 5 also but for one thing – I remember I was really caught up in the story the first time and I wonder if I had trouble staying with this book this time because the first time I read it was only some weeks ago. So now it's 3.5 out of 5, which means it’s a decent read to me. Maybe I should read it in one year to see what I think then. LOL