Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Review: Black Ice by Anne Stuart (Ice #1)

Title: Black Ice
Author: Anne Stuart
Publisher: Mira
Publication Date: Jan. 1, 2007

My Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars

I have read a lot of books in my 30-plus years of, well, reading. And a lot of these are good. Some are even great. But, it is rare for me to come across a book that has to be considered one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. Black Ice ranks up there as one of these books.

From Goodreads:

Living paycheck to paycheck in Paris, American book translator Chloe Underwood would give anything for some excitement and passion--even a little danger. So when she's offered a lucrative weekend gig translating at a business conference in a remote chateau, she jumps at the chance to shake things up.

Then by chance Chloe discovers her employers are anything but the entrepreneurs they appear, and suddenly she knows far too much. Her clients are illegal arms dealers, and one of them is ordered to kill her. But instead, Bastien Toussaint drags Chloe away, and the next thing she knows she's on the run with the most terrifying and seductive man she's ever met. What were his motives--and would she live long enough to find out?

My thoughts:

This book kept coming up in recommendations on Goodreads and people were raving about it. I finally bought is and holy heck this book! This book had me at the edge of my seat. Seriously at the freaking edge of my seat! 

In some reviews, I tend to focus on the relationship between the characters. And there is a relationship here that needs to be talked about.  But it is the story itself and the character of Bastien that had me completely enthralled. His character boggled my mind.  I went through the book vacillating between wanting Chloe to beat him over the head with a solid object and running for her life, and running into his arms, proclaiming her undying love. I could not figure him out and then BAM! Suddenly, I got it. We started to get into his head and saw the internal battle he was fighting between the man he was trained to be and the man he wanted to be with Chloe.  As for Chloe, I found myself liking her. She was not a kick ass heroine. She was strong in some ways, but she was stupid in others. But above all of this, I felt that she was written realistically for the situation she found herself in.  Chloe was real for me because there were times she was freaking out and rightly so! Though I do admit, her looking on the computer, when she had an idea things were not on the right side of the law...Well that was just freakin stupid. But, we all have lapses in judgment I guess. And seriously, if Bastien was around me and I was being tortured by someone even scarier than him, well I might be that stupid too.

Now, I have to talk about the part where Bastien takes Chloe. Or the circumstances leading up to it.  This is mentioned in the blurb. When he drags her away, he doesn't kidnap her. What he offers though is something way better than what Chloe had been experiencing before he came into the room. Even though she is terrified of him too, she knows he offers her something she won't get while in that room. Life. And in that scene, when Chloe was on the floor, fighting her urge to give in and scream, maybe that is why Bastien saved her. I don't know. He was pretty into her before, but I couldn't tell if, in the beginning, this was part of his act or not. But in any case, when he saw her there, and saw her strength as she tried to resist what was coming, his humanity showed through. The ice began to thaw and he saved her from a horrible, torturous experience. And for that, I will love Bastien forever.

There is romance in the book. But it is not romance in the traditional sense. They are running for their lives, literally, and there isn't a lot of time to stop and have a chat. They connect physically but both seem to understand that a lot of this has to do with what they are running from.  They give in, but they also believe it won't last, no matter how much they want it to.  Bastien knows he has to give her up. He doesn't feel like he is good enough for her and that she deserves more. Not a broken man like him. And everything he does for her to get her out of the line of fire, and then later, to protect her when she gets home even at risk to his own safety, shows that he loves Chloe. That he wants her so badly but is willing to sacrifice his happiness for her to find it with someone else. This broke my heart.

Some may ask, was it Stockholm Syndrome? Heck, Chloe herself asked this several times. She tried to convince herself that it was. I don't know enough about that to say one way or another. I will say though that Chloe was never really his hostage. He made clear that if she left she would be killed (and she almost was), but not necessarily by him. (It was a bit ambiguous in the beginning, when he was being all 'bad guy', but it changed once he saved her.)    She let him keep her safe. And who wouldn't? I mean, I'd prefer living over dying so yeah, I would definitely have made the same choice Chloe did.  She wasn't doing it because she was lusting after Bastien. She did to survive. And because of this, her uncertainty about things with Bastien on the personal level was realistic. She was wondering herself, just like I was, whether she only wanted him because of the situation they were in or if she really did want to be with him.

The very end, I swear my heart was in pieces. From the point where he came back to the last page, I was just out of breath. The bedroom scene? *sighs*  The crawl space scene *gasps* The mine? Well frak me I think I stopped breathing.  At that point, I was pretty certain that the author had done the unthinkable but I had to keep reading, even if that was the case, because I had to know. I won't say what happened but the roller coaster of emotions was so worth it.

I've seen reviewers complain about the ending, because it just...well...ends. But there is resolution. And to me, it was perfect. And the last thing he says...I totally squealed with happiness!  Don't get me wrong, I love a good epilogue. But I can live without them too. Because in my head, where all my favorite fictional characters live in happily ever land, I am confident things are all rainbows and unicorns.

So if you are looking for a phenomenal romantic suspense novel that will keep you off balance while you're trying to figure things out, this is it. Here are the book links for Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Happy reading!

Note: This is the first in a series but the books have different main characters in them. I am not sure if there is any connection as I have not read the next one. Yet. But I will.

*This book was a self-purchase and I was not in any way compensated for, or even asked, to review this book. All opinions are my own*

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