Grand Central Publishing, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4555-3608-5
Romantic Suspense, 2016
Absolute Trust is marketed as a contemporary romance with danger and enemies – all targeting the heroine Sophie Kim, naturally, as opposed to the big strong hero Brandon Forte – and Brandon is ex-military with testosterone-y awesomeness to the wazoo, so normally this one would be considered a romantic suspense. But this one has villains who thoughtfully do the bad guy thing at the start, as if they exist only to give the hero and the heroine a reason to stay close together, and then stay away – playing Sudoku, washing their hair, Netflix-and-chilling, who knows – until they absolutely have to show up towards the end for the obligatory “Muahahaha! The heroine is in my clutches!” stuff. There is hardly any suspense, just plenty of navel gazing, so perhaps this one is better off categorized as a contemporary romance?
Anyway, this book is really not all that as I spend more time wondering what category I will put the review under, as opposed to thinking about its virtues and flaws. The characters feel like central casting leftovers served without even a warm-up in a microwave, and the suspense resembles more of filler material just to get things started and, later, wrapped up between Brandon and Sophie.
Brandon has always had a thing for Sophie, but he never showed her his thing because he’s an edgy, emo guy who has all kinds of reasons to thump his chest and act like he’s the most noble man alive because he’s sparing Sophie from his little blue action hero meat stick. But now that he’s one of the three action men running the New Hope dog-retraining facility (these people rehabilitate and retrain military service dogs which had lost their owners), and Sophie also volunteers there, they see a lot of one another. Still, they are doing their best to avoid swapping saliva and more… well, at least until we have enough pages in the story. He is still trying to be noble, she is determined to stay friendly with him so as to not lose him altogether, and I find myself thinking that these two characters think and behave more like high school kids than adults.
Fortunately, the villain helps to get these two to move past go by bombing up Sophie’s car. Why the villain will plant a bomb in a car parked near a facility where dogs trained in sniffing out bombs are everywhere is beyond me, but if there is one thing I have learned about villains in romantic suspense after all these years, it’s that they are often not the smartest people around. At any rate, Sophie ends up in hospital and Brandon is like, ooh, he remembers how Sophie hates hospital, so he’d now spend all his time by her side there. Normally, I’d say a romance is doomed if you need to have a bomb go off near you to even get him to come play house with you, but hey, romance novel.
Their friends insist that Brandon must stay at Sophie’s house to make sure that she is safe 24/7 – the cops are, of course, useless and unreliable – so there is plenty of time for them to sigh and look forlornly at one another. Meanwhile, Brandon and his buddies – those dudes that run the doggy rehab – are also super talented in everything and have connections to the wazoo, so they also look into who could have wanted to target Sophie. Could she be targeted as a means to get back at Brandon? This is, of course, an excuse for Brandon to go uhuhuhu, he’s really bad for Sophie, so here is more anguished sultry pout of angst from him.
Normally, I may find someone as creepy-obsessive as Brandon sweet, but here, he comes off as unhinged. This is one guy who puts the heroine on a pedestal – she has no flaws, none whatsoever in his eyes, and he’d gut you if you dare suggest otherwise – and sticks so close to her that he may as well be a sheen of oil on her skin or something. He also makes decisions for her, et cetera. There is singular fixation quality to his stalker-like tendencies that give me the creeps, and I wonder just how he’d react if the heroine actually shows some flaws some time down the road. Brandon’s idealized version of Sophie Kim is going to be one that is very hard for any woman to live up to. When it comes to him, a more appropriate title for this story is Absolute Fixation.
Aside from that, there is nothing particularly remarkable or memorable about Absolute Trust. It is a by-the-numbers story with action hero worship, sassy heroine who nonetheless is a damsel in distress at the end of the day, and half-baked filler suspense elements. If that sounds like one of those boring books you’ve read, then chances are, you’d have read this one already as well. Sure, it has some dogs, but then again, there are many cute doggy YouTube videos too, and those are free to watch.