Series: The Ash Trilogy, Book 2
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 372 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Ballentine publisher Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Another Strong Romantic Suspense from Walker
Hope Carson doesn't think of herself as a survivor but she escaped an abusive husband and survived an attack by a monster. She's skittish and nervous and spends most of her time looking over her shoulder, but she's still alive. In the small town of Ash, Kentucky that's become more than half the battle.
District Attorney Remington Jennings doesn't want to believe Hope could be responsible for the vicious attack on her friend's life or the suicide attempt that almost took her own, but the call he makes to her ex-husband puts all sorts of doubts in his mind about the woman he's been inexplicably drawn to from the moment he first saw her. Maybe that indelible attraction is why every instinct Remy has rebels at the thought that Hope is mentally ill and dangerous - to herself or anyone else.
All he wants to do is protect her, to get her to trust him, to be close to her. He doesn't want to prosecute her. Unfortunately the evidence and the statement from her ex-husband seem to indicate that Hope Carson is a lot more than appearances - and his instincts - want to admit. Unless both the evidence and the ex-husband aren't what they seem.
But if that's the case, Hope is in a hell of a lot more danger than she could ever be to herself. And she's not the only one.
Another solid romantic suspense by Walker. I wouldn't recommend it if you haven't read the first book in the trilogy, though. Not so much because the story here doesn't work as a standalone but because of the backstory and character dynamic introduced in the first book. The emotional impact of the first chapter alone would be completely lost on someone just joining the trilogy here. And that first chapter was a doozy. I was sick inside while Remy spoke to Hope's ex. It set the tone for the rest of the narrative and I can only imagine how much of that would've been lost if I hadn't read the first book.
I love the blend of story and character that Walker's created for these books. Primary and secondary characters have depth and individuality, and I love that their interpersonal issues are messy and emotional and realistic. The interwoven plotlines of the characters' evolving relationships add cohesion to the story and work well within the small-town setting. Add in the story elements of a particularly nasty psychopath and a thriller that spans the series and all sorts of Happy Reader buttons are being pushed by this trilogy.
I did have a couple of issues with this installment that I didn't have in the first. Early in the book I started to get a little overwhelmed by the various shifting points of view and multiple threads of plot and and sub-plot. There is so much going on with so many different characters that the story waters got a little muddy and chaotic in places as the book progressed. It was never so bad that I was turned off the read, but it did trip me up a here and there.
The romance arc wasn't quite as appealing to me as the one in the first book, but that was more an issue of personal reading preference. I just wasn't as crazy about Remy and Hope, either as individual characters or as the lead romantic couple, as I was about Ezra and Lena in their book. Hope's damage and the emotional baggage she carries, as well as how she deals with both, is realistic and understandable, but it just isn't my cuppa for romantic heroines. Remy, too, crossed the narrow line between supportive and overprotective just a few too many times for my taste.
I still enjoyed the characters very much, and appreciated their romance, but neither it nor them really knocked it out of the park for me.
One of the things I did like about this one was the continuing serial killer arc. The glimpses we see from the killer's point of view take chilling and creepy to a whole other level, especially when it comes to his thoughts and actions concerning Hope. And I'm still absolutely clueless about who he is.
There were several developments in the arc of the psychological thriller that really worked for me, and though the main characters and their romance weren't quite as entertaining to me as the other book, I still heartily enjoyed this read. Fans of romantic suspense should start at the beginning, but they should definitely start this trilogy. I'm anxiously looking forward to seeing it reach a climax and resolution in the next book.