Series: Love Undercover, Book 2
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Length: 480 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by HQN publisher Harlequin via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Too Much and Not Enough
From the moment he met his new neighbor, Detective Reese Bareden knew two things about the quiet and reserved Alice Appleton: he wants her, and she's had the sort of trouble in her past that put shadows in her eyes and motivates her to keep several deadly weapons in easy reach. That sort of baggage makes it difficult to get close to the woman, but with the help of his new dog Cash and the fact that his apartment is still a crime scene, at least he has an in.
And once in, Reese has no intention of letting Alice kick him out.
She has been through hell and survived, though Alice still bears the scars of her past on her psyche. Those scars keep her vigilant, keep her cautious, and keep her as far off the grid as she can be. Having the handsome Reese sleeping on her couch presents a host of issues to her composure, but she can't honestly say she minds. In fact, she'd be even happier if she could get him from her couch to her bed.
When her hyperawareness thrusts Alice into a dangerous world of drug running, human trafficking, and murder to save a young woman in trouble, Reese practically loses his mind with fear for her safety. He doesn't care if he has to bend a few rules or pull in every favor he's owed, he'll do whatever it takes to keep her safe. And if the cost is the risk to his own life, so be it.
I've been reading and enjoying Lori Foster books for years, but I have to admit, this one didn't work for me. I can't say I disliked it, really, but there were more than a few elements that didn't appeal. Alice was one of them. Her personality rubbed me the wrong way. I liked her sincerity and honesty even in awkward situations, but the prim ingenue aspects of her character drove me nuts.
The woman draws gorgeous alpha males to her like bees to pollen, each one feeling the overwhelming urge to protect and defend her from the big bad world that done her wrong. Her emotional baggage lent her an air of fragility and every male in the story keyed on it. I like my protagonists flawed and/or damaged, but I prefer strength in the face of adversity, and more independent, self-reliant heroines. I also prefer a more emotionally equal partnership in romance relationships. Alice was a bit too much the damsel in distress.
Sure, she kept telling everyone she could handle herself. Repeatedly, in fact. I just never bought it. For good reason, as it turns out, as she managed to insert herself into more than one dangerous situation she didn't see coming - despite her vaunted situational awareness.
Reese didn't bother me. In fact, he's one of the things I liked about the book. While he was fairly stereotypical, I don't mind the alpha male stereotype, and his jealous reactions to...well...every male in Alice's life but him amused me. He had such a big soft spot for Alice from the very beginning and if I'd liked her more, I would've loved his fall into love.
I also enjoyed Rowdy, Pepper's brother from the first book in the series. Even when he was being a lecherous slimeball incapable of keeping his junk in his pants and unwilling to even try, I liked his contribution to the story. I'm really looking forward to his impending tumble into monogamy (hopefully) with love interest Avery, who we meet again in this book. Call me twisted, but I hope that tumble is fast and hard and gives him all sorts of bumps and bruises along the way.
As much as I enjoyed him, though, I thought the reason behind his appearance in this story was extremely shaky. I just couldn't quite buy that Rowdy was so motivated by his alpha male savior complex that in the absence of the need to keep protecting his sister, who is now happily engaged to Reese's partner Logan, he takes it upon himself to approach complete stranger Alice out of the blue and worms his way into her apartment and her life to become her newest champion.
That more than stretched my willing suspension of disbelief, it chewed it up and spit it out. I'll wait until his book to deal with the fact that he's a disrespectful asshat bordering on rampant misogyny when it comes to the legion of women he beds, but in this one, a much more believable and realistic reason for his initial involvement and subsequent solid contribution to the story would have been much appreciated.
Several problems with various other story elements, like the sparsely detailed and anticlimactic reveal of Alice's past, the too-quick and convenient resolution of her emotional issues, and the anemic and inconsistent suspense plotline also hampered my enjoyment of the read.
In the end, I felt the book was more palatable to me as a romance than as a romantic suspense, even with my issues with Alice. It was really Reese's headlong and enthusiastic tumble into love and my interest in Rowdy that kept me reading, because I couldn't begin to engage in the plot threads surrounding the Bad Guy and the danger he posed for the characters.
Fortunately, I've read enough books by the author to know my impressions of this one were extremely atypical. One book that didn't appeal to me hasn't turned me off Foster, it's just made me doubly interested in trying the next.