Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-243740-2
Romantic Suspense, 2016
Now this is a pleasant surprise. The author’s previous books in her LOST series were all made from cringe, hopelessness, and incompetence, but Torn is unexpectedly well-crafted in comparison. That doesn’t mean that this one is remarkable, mind you, it’s a hopelessly generic and even formulaic psycho-killer-eek story with a heavy sprinkling of alpha male antics passed off as romance. But at least it doesn’t make me fear that I would get some kind of early dementia from reading it.
Another psycho is kidnapping and killing girls again. I know, what else is new? And LOST – which stands for Last Option Search Team, or Let’s Organize and Stack the Tropes if you look at it from a meta point of view – is on the scene when they are hired to locate a young lady who had been missing for the last five years. There are no normal people in LOST – in this story, everyone is related to a serial killer or a victim of one – so forensic expert Victoria Palmer is OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG while Wade Monroe is like I WILL PUT YOU IN A SPECIAL CHINA CABINET WHERE YOU WILL ALWAYS BE SAFE, TO BE TAKEN OUT ONLY WHEN I WANT TO BOINK YOU. They work together on this case, so Victoria is like OMG OMG OMG while Wade is like LOOK AT MY ERECTION, IT’S SO AMAZING.
Because Victoria is so OMG OMG OMG, she has been hanging out with hot guys and having shallow relationships with them. Wade discovers this and is not happy because, like all good-quality romance heroes, he is moved into feelings and acts of violence when he imagines the woman he has designated as his being looked at, sniffed at, and touched by any other man. He practically tells her that if she wants sex, she has better climb his staircase and throw herself down on his grand yee-haw. She’s like OMG OMG OMG and they are soon getting it on. Well, we have sex and romance (same thing, really, who has the time to develop these things when everyone is so busy?) out of the way, so let’s focus on the case.
The “romance” is easily the worst thing about this story, because it’s all sex that is supposed to somehow erase all the demons in these people’s heads. Worse, the author continues her fetish with weak and fragile heroines – she pays lip service to how Victoria is strong, the best at her work, et cetera, but the poor darling rarely gets to walk the talk as the author has Wade hover over her to the point that Victoria sometimes cannot even speak for herself without him interrupting in and answering for her. There is a very discomfiting kind of patronizing feel to Wade’s feelings for her. He keeps seeing her as some kind of fragile, weak creature desperately needing him to protect and watch over her, so much so that I cringe when this patronizing “love” of his creates a situation during the denouement, in which the heroine worries that his obsessive need to make sure that he is always the one protecting her would get him killed. In other words, the author makes the heroine a liability even when Victoria isn’t really actively causing the situation – amazing, really.
Victoria actually seems like a sensible girl who can probably take care of herself once she gets the psychiatric help she clearly needs, but with Wade as her sweetheart, I doubt she will have a chance to move on. He will always make sure that she remains this weak and helpless girl-child fantasy he has of her in his head, and she’d never be allowed by him to do or say anything without him hovering over her to make sure that she is “safe”. I feel sorry for her in the end.
The mystery on the other hand is not so bad.
Okay, a lot of it feels like some spillover from a bad CSI episode, and there are some suspensions of disbelief needed. For example, LOST has a remarkable amount of access to police cases and crime scenes despite being a private investigative entity, and they even abet their cop buddy in harassing and even roughing up suspects without repercussions. The villain is also remarkably omnipotent, being able to tap into LOST communication devices and be everywhere and anywhere despite the fact that, when the identity of the villain is revealed, this villain technically should have had a harder time accessing the resources to stay so many steps ahead of LOST. The whole investigative procedure is basically a series of repetitive montages, often involving the cop Dace shouting and raging impotently when things don’t turn out well, and our hero and heroine wrinkling their foreheads and going, “Hmm!” before heading off to have sex in order to remind me that this is still a romance novel of some sort. For supposedly experienced investigators, Victoria and Wade can be bewilderingly clueless. For example, Victoria just cannot imagine that the person who hired them may have his own motives that he never revealed to them, and Wade finds it unbelievable that college staff and students would carry weapons with them. What world do these people come from? Ponyland?
Still, the whole thing reads really well. The pacing is fine, and as long as I don’t think while I am turning the pages, the whole thing is quite the absorbing read. Okay, the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes, but they don’t do anything too stupid or dumb, and I can live with Wade’s clichéd “Look, ma, I’m a new adult, stalking, overbearing alpha mule!” act since it doesn’t lead to any painful moments – which is what I cannot say for the previous books in this series. I can even admit that I am quite entertained by the whole thing by the time I reach the last page. Therefore, I suppose it’s only fair that I give this one three oogies.