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In Rides Trouble by Julie Ann Walker

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Black Knights Inc., Book 2
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 311 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Sourcebooks Casablanca publisher Sourcebooks via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.



Fun Read...Until Trouble Rode In

It had certainly seemed like a good idea at the time. Rebecca "Becky" Reichert needed a vacation. After Frank Knight, head of the covert special ops team her custom bike shop fronts, shot her down personally and crushed her hopes of ever becoming an operative, she had to get far, far away from the man.

Three and a half years of hoping and yearning, wanting him to care for her like she did him, and all of it wasted, leaving her with nothing but broken dreams and a battered heart. It made it impossible to stick around Chicago while she licked her wounds...and talked herself out of killing the stubborn jerk.

So yes, cruising around the Indian Ocean on her best friend's catamaran, enjoying warm seas and a tropical paradise, all seemed like the perfect recipe for healing. Sort of makes that whole pirate thing even more of a bother.

Being overtaken by Somalian pirates, boarded at gunpoint, and held for ransom shouldn't be all that much of a surprise, really. It's just another example of how Becky's life doesn't ever go quite as planned. On the bright side, she has not a scintilla of doubt that Frank, her brother, and the other operatives of Black Knights, Inc. will be racing to rescue her and her friend as soon as they find out.

The less bright side: she is just as confident that Frank is going to somehow blame her for this whole mess. Again.

~*~

I wasn't sold on the first book in this series. It had some positives, but issues with the inconsistent tone of the tale and some dissatisfaction with the main characters kept it from being as entertaining as I had hoped it would be. Then I dived into this second installment and was pleasantly surprised by both the story and the characters.

Becky and Frank were introduced in the previous book. The groundwork for their relationship was well-laid and their story thread, though ancillary to the main plot, was one of the brights spots of that book for me. I liked them both a lot as characters, and I looked forward to seeing their story transition into the main relationship arc of this book.

I was a little concerned that having the age difference as the main bone of contention between them would start feeling a little one-note if it dragged on too long, but Walker handled it nicely. There were several separate issues, some that were offshoots of the age thing and some not, and they kept me from losing interest or getting frustrated. All told, their relationship issues were believable and realistic within the framework of the story.

At least through the first three quarters of the book, anyway.

The suspense plot threads were a little disappointing. The Bad Guy was a bad guy, all right, but his presence felt almost transitory, and he never really posed more than an academic threat through a good portion of the middle of the story. I appreciated the glimpses of what made him who he was, but would have appreciated more seeing him and his storyline have more impact in the book.

The narrative was much smoother and more balanced than the first, though, which I liked. It didn't sway wildly between too-sweet saccharine moments (mostly absent in this book, thankfully) and moments in the most graphic of war-torn hells. There were still occasions of minor disconnects between the humor inherent in Walker's writing style and the grimness of the storyline, but they were far, far less jarring.

Unfortunately, my biggest issue with this read spanned almost the entire last quarter of the book. There is a very thin line between a story that evokes emotion and one that flagrantly manipulates it. The way in which the story was written to hide details (or reveal them) in certain key moments smacked of emotional manipulation and made some pivotal scenes distasteful. One of them was the initial sexual encounter between Becky and Frank, and that was a huge problem for me.

The way in which the narrative was crafted around that scene made it tread dangerously close to one of my reading red lights (something in a story that is so anathema to me that it stops me in my tracks and can turn me off an author's entire body of work). And it was obviously intended to do so. Then, when the story progresses to the point of climax and resolution, and truths are revealed while explanations are given, the reason behind the angst seemed ludicrous.

Twelve years old? Really?? And not once did Frank entertain the notion (insane as it may be) of having one single, honest, adult conversation with the person to whom he could address a pledge made by a child. Instead that pledge becomes a twenty-seven-year-old albatross around a certain bullheaded idiot's neck, even as it silently strips away any lingering hope for a life with the woman he loves.

Even with that, though, Frank and Becky's story was a more entertaining read for me than it's predecessor. I really enjoyed the first three-quarters of the book and the characters, especially tomboy mechanic Becky, charmed me. The introduction of several new characters also offers a glimpse of the great story potential for upcoming books. I still think there's promise in this series for me, but it's going to have to have an improved romantic resolution. The one here was a killer.


The Black Knights, Inc. Series:

  

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Ratings Guide

Here is a rundown of what the star ratings mean to me! It's not a perfect system, so you may see me add in a .5 star here and there if my impression of the book falls somewhere between these:

5 Stars - Loved it
4 Stars - Liked it
3 Stars - It's okay
2 Stars - Didn't like it
1 Star - Hated it

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Tracy has read 22 books toward her goal of 175 books.
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Zero at the BoneHead Over HeelsLord of the WolfynIn Total SurrenderA Win-Win PropositionNorth of Need

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