Berkley Sensation, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-19069-2
Romantic Suspense, 2003
This underbaked story is pretty readable, but it’s pretty familiar and underwritten at the same time that it doesn’t stick to my mind when I’m done with it.
Ashley Marin’s fifteen-year old daughter is missing. Lauren is kidnapped by the same man that kidnapped Ashley twenty years ago – Ashley recognized the kidnapper’s voice through the phone. She turns to the same guy that found her all those years ago, Chris Judge, whom she had a crush on in the years after her traumatic incident. Chris, alas, the years haven’t been kind to him. An undercover cop who is forced to leave the force after his last stint made him more of a bad guy than everyone expected, Chris is at first reluctant to get involved. Soon, he will see this quest from Ashley as his own chance at redemption.
The characters have promise, or rather, Chris has promise. He’s a classic conflicted and tormented hero who is determined to do the right thing. Ashley, however, is a victim. Yes, she was kidnapped and held captive and she got phobias from that ordeal. But she also lets her ex-husband, her daughter, and her Alzheimer-stricken mother bully her. All of what little of my sympathies – and trust me, it is this very little – for Little Miss Dingbat here is gone the moment I learn, after I’m subjected to her whining about her money problems, that she knows all along that her house is situated on prime land that is worth a lot of money. And all this laundry list of whines serve no purpose. Unlike Chris who overcomes his demons throughout the story, Ashley’s baggage serves no purpose for her character development. They’re just there to set her up as a victim and then the plot continues to make her a victim. Even her romance with Chris is dysfunctional – Ashley’s falling for Chris, a man she idealized to the point of unrealistic hero-worship, is more akin to her wrapping herself up deeper and deeper in her delusions. I can’t help feeling that Chris is expected to save her and shield her from reality instead of helping her get over herself and find the strength to get on with life.
Usually the problem of a really ridiculous villain in a romantic suspense story can still be overcome if the author can write credible characters that make me care for them. In the case of In the Cold, however, the book is too flimsy in plot and characterization. Chris is almost a compelling character, but where everything else is concerned, the author seems to be just going through the motions.