>> Saturday, November 05, 2016
George is a mystery.The first 2 books in this series were very different. I loved the first one, Hold Your Breath, which had an interesting suspense angle and a really nice romance. The second one, however, was a dud. I found the characters in Fan the Flames very problematic, and I ended up DNFing it.
Tall. Dark. Intense.
He's at home in the wild,
And she'll need him by her side if she wants to survive.
George Holloway has spent his life alone, exploring the treacherous beauty of the Colorado Rockies. He's the best survival expert Search & Rescue has, which makes him the obvious choice to lead Ellie Price through deadly terrain to find her missing father. There's just one problem—Ellie's everything George isn't. She's a city girl, charming, gregarious, delicate, small. And when she looks up at him with those big, dark eyes, he swears he would tear the world apart to keep her safe.
Ellie's determined to find her father no matter the cost. But as she and her gorgeous mountain of a guide fight their way through an unforgiving wilderness, they find themselves in the crosshairs of a dangerous man in search of revenge. And they are now his prey…
In the remote Rocky Mountains, lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder...
I'm glad to report the third book in the series is much more like book 1, and I really enjoyed it.
This series includes an overarching suspense plot, which concerns the murder of the man whose headless body was discovered by the heroine, Lou, in an icy lake in a memorable scene in the first book. There might have been some developments I missed in book 2, but I never felt lost. Turns out there was a witness to the murder, and it's a man, Baxter Price, who has some pretty severe mental health issues .Combined with fear, this means he is very reluctant to go to the police. As the book starts, Baxter calls his estranged daughter, Ellie, in a panic. The killer is after him, so he's going into hiding in a cabin in the mountains and he's calling to say goodbye, in case he doesn't make it.
Ellie might not have seen her dad for many years, but it's not for not wanting to. After a chaotic episode when she was a girl, when he barricaded them in a room during a mental break, Baxter disappeared and hasn't been in touch. As soon as she hangs up, Ellie knows she needs to find her dad and get him help, particularly because the cabin he's going to happens to be the one where he barricaded them all those years ago, and even though she's sure all that stuff about him being chased by killers is not real, she knows it's not safe for him to be wandering in such territory in the cold on his own while not being mentally well.
And so Ellie heads from Chicago to Simpson, right in the middle of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, an environment as different as could be from her very civilised life. The first person she meets is George a bearded mountain of a mountain man, and a person from whom even the very chatty Lou can't extract more than monosyllables. George happens to be the most knowledgeable man in town about the mountains, and to everyone's amazement, Ellie manages to convince him to guide her to her father's cabin (he very emphatically does NOT guide tourists normally).
But what's supposed to be a simple, albeit grueling, hike in the mountain turns a lot more risky when it becomes clear that the danger to Baxter was not a hallucination of his, and the baddies intend to use Ellie and George to lead them to him.
This was so good, particularly the romance. George is just incredibly adorable, a shy, sweet and inexperienced man in what seems at first an intimidatingly huge package. And Ellie is hilarious. I really liked her determination and sense of humour. It's pretty much adoration at first sight between these two, and after a bit of clumsy dancing around each other (aided by the enforced proximity of the hike in frigid weather), they give that mutual adoration free rein. And that could be nauseating, but it's not, not in the least. What it is, is lovely. They like and respect each other, and I enjoyed them very much.
I also liked that the romance is a slow burn, with focus on the feelings, rather than the sex. Yes, there is sex, and it's really well done, but it's seasoning, rather than the main dish.
The suspense is good as well, although more run-of-the-mill. Ruggle did surprise me with the identity of the villain (she really had me going in the wrong direction), but the contortions to prevent Baxter simply revealing it were a bit on the unbelievable side. I did very much like the bits where Ellie and George were hiking in the cold mountain. It was fascinating, and Ruggle managed to bring in quite a lot of detail about the mechanics and logistics without sounding in the least infodumpy. It was similar in Hold Your Breath, in which for all that the mystery was a bit meh, I loved all the stuff about ice diving.
I'm glad I didn't give up on the series after book 2, and here's hoping this represents a return to form and book 4 is just as good. There's a revelation right at the end that sets up a plot for it that is not normally to my taste, but I'll give it a shot.
MY GRADE: A B+.