Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-234956-9
Romantic Suspense, 2015
Research over the last few decades suggested that a challenging book is one of the many ways one can keep the mind sharp and slow down the onset on dementia during one’s golden years. Therefore, it’s really nice that Cynthia Eden immediately sets out to challenge the reader and stump her into thinking hard from the first page, but I wonder whether she’s going about it the right way. Yes, I scratch my head considerably throughout the story, but instead of thinking that the author is so awesome for wanting to help me love my brain cells, I can only hope that the faction of researchers who believe that the brain can replenish dead brain cells is right. I don’t want to become senile before I have a chance to grope Hugh Jackman or Mark Ruffalo.
Broken is the first book in the LOST series, with LOST being the acronym for Last Option Search Team, another private entity run by ex-Navy SEALs, FBI agents, and other short hand for that “sexy muscled beefcakes who would bodyguard you and body your guard while lusting after you and threatening to break the arms of other men who look at you” trope. Yes, there is another token chick in that group, only she is the more visceral sort, and I won’t be surprised if she harbors a long-time crush on some action hero who is the only one powerful enough to tame her. Or something like that. In other words, LOST can also stand for “Let’s Overload Stereotypes Today!”
So, when the story opens, we have Eve Gray. She is buried neck deep in sand, and yet she can somehow move her hands through all that sand to release the bonds typing her wrists together. I suppose the serial killer who has caught and tortured her may just be lousy at knots. And then, she can jump out of the hole he buried her in, overwhelm the killer despite the fact that she is weakened from blood loss and what not, and run away. That is possible – adrenaline can drive one to do incredible things, after all. Eve collapses, ends up in hospital, and gets treated for numerous horrific wounds.
Eve believes that she may be the heiress said in the newspapers to be the Lady Killer’s latest victim. By the way, nice moniker – I have never seen that one being used before, snort. She looks like the woman in the photo. But the cops take one look at her and dismiss her case. No proof! I think my brain is getting a little heated up at that moment. I know, okay, we have a dead ringer for a missing girl said to be the last person to have seen the Lady Killer, who has been killing women all over the place, and there are medical reports pointing out the numerous horrific scars all over her body – scars that are the result of a brutal attack, according to the doctor that stitched her up and tended to her. And we are talking about a very beautiful white young lady from a wealthy family. And I’m supposed to believe that the cops just say “Nah!” and go back to stuffing their faces with donuts?
This story can’t happen if the above don’t happen, if the cops aren’t being so… daft, so this is one book where you’d either nod and keep reading or toss across the room into the wastepaper basket by the end of the third chapter. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Anyway, back to the story. Eve approaches Gabriel Spencer, ex-SEAL and big boss, with her case. Gabe is initially wary, as she could be lying in order to get the real heiress’s money or something. However, just one look at her and his trusty bazooka is immediately notched and ready for the big blast-off. Yes, this is another story where the author tries to do that erotic thing by having the hero getting immediately horny at the sight of the heroine as well as jealous that any man would dare to even look at her, and it’s love because his bazooka weeps tears of manliness as he strives to protect the wounded doe heroine from the evil world out there.
Eve is the classic damsel in distress who, at the same time, gets every man to want her bad. The nice doctor who stitches her up lets her know that he has a big syringe waiting just for her. When she moves to the homeless shelter, guys instinctively get all protective and sweet over her. And there’s Gabe, of course, who wants to jump her from the moment that she does that wounded doe act at him. Like Gabe, she has little personality that goes beyond a cardboard strip stamped with the word “stereotype”. Wait, she does have some issues about sex and what not, because there’s nothing like a very beautiful woman victimized by her beauty and femininity to complete the whole victim-needs-propping act.
Okay, eventually these two meet her brother – adopted brother, actually – who claims that he has discarded every belonging of Eve so there is no way she can get a DNA test to prove her identity, as there is nothing else from the old Eve to compare DNA to. Instead of trying to get some CSI-like team to comb her place for something – a strand of hair, perhaps – that can help prove her identity, the good guys just scowl and hug themselves. They don’t even suspect that this brother is being shady. Then again, Eva and Gabe are so busy lusting after one another, they probably won’t notice if someone kidnaps a secondary character and replaces that character with an orangutan. Unsurprisingly, Eva gets into all kinds of trouble – these two aren’t thinking or paying attention, after all. Meanwhile, my head is starting to hurt. God, these people are stupid!
Oh, and the villain is very obvious from the get go, so imagine how often I roll up my eyes when the author tries to introduce a few consecutive lame twists toward the end in order to throw me off the trail. After several near-death moments, our heroine stumbles one last time before the happy ending into the villain’s clutches. The author has the heroine go, “Oh! The shock!” Well, at that moment when both Gabe and Eve are so stunned, I am actually thinking that I am clearly smarter than those two bozos – I should be the boss of LOST, I tell you. And my first act would be to fire all these morons and hire actually smart people for a change. Oh, and I’d change the name. Who can take a company with a name like Last Option Search Team seriously?
Anyway, Broken is technically decent. But it is a classic rescue fantasy, only with the main characters being so flat and dull that the author relies on a reader’s familiarity with stereotypes to fill in the blanks. Not to mention, the entire premised is whacked from the beginning, making this one of those stories where the author is just making stuff up as she goes along without even bothering to check whether Scooby-Doo has done the plot first, and better too. This story is indeed Broken, so be careful that you don’t let it break your brain too.