I read much of today and finished Fire and Ice by Anne Stuart!
At first I was thinking something was off (as in although it was a keeper, it wasn't going to be one of my favourites) but then WHAM, she sucker punched me!!
I friggin' love this book!!!
So yeah, get ready for it -
KEEPER, KEEPER, KEEPER, KEEPER, KEEPER!!!!
Cindy Blurb: So, this is a final in a series about assassins for 'good' and by that I don't mean these people are even remotely healthy in the morals department but hey, they aren't stone cold killers just for kicks. They have a purpose when they kill - wait, uh, okay, I should mention these are pretty dark books with those anti-heroes / heroines (just in case you are new to Stuart - LinnieGayl I'm talking to you!) that just make me happy.
Jilly is the sister of Summer (a heroine from another book) who is 20 and even though she is young and yes, she even acts young, she's I guess a genius but you know, in books cause not so much in social ways. She met Reno (the cousin of Taka, Summer's man) two years ago and started crushing something fierce. Reno, poor bugger, fell also but didn't realize it. Summer and Taka see it all and keep these two apart.
Reno, meanwhile, is 28 and a disgrace to his well respected family. Hair down to his waist, dyed bright red, rides Harleys and doesn't take anything too seriously. At least, that's what we are led to believe and yeah, I totally bought it.
Jilly makes a mistake and runs to her sister who just happens to be in extreme hiding with her hubby Taka. Jilly, not realizing she shouldn't be in Japan ever, steps into the middle of a turf war and Reno is sent in to save her.
And then there was love.
Stuart style baby!!
Let's see, what can I tell you about this one?
I went into Reno and Jilly's story not truly convinced I was going to buy these two falling in love. I guess their ages threw me off and then Reno hadn't really acted all that mature in the previous books. He's a biker dude (okay, he was called something else in the book but whatever) who worked with extremely skilled, deadly guys and they all seemed to make him look like, uh, well, a pansy.
I'm just saying.
Didn't feel like hero material to me.
HOW COULD I HAVE DOUBTED!!???
My love for Ms. Stuart now knows no bounds. I'm telling ya, she made Death sexy in a novella umpteen years ago, had me fall in love with a dead gangster in a Valentine's Day anthology - let's not even talk about Simon ( *MY* Simon) the conman wizard in a historical of all things!!
How could I have thought that she wasn't going to pull this one out of the fire?
The beginning was choppy for me but it was because of all these preconceived notions I had about Reno and well, Jilly is young. Like, young. She was practically jail bait when she first met Reno and Ms. Stuart usually writes characters that are well seasoned with age.
But OMG it just gets fabulous as you continue reading.
What did I love? I loved that Reno and Jilly *were* young cause even though Reno had that edge (you discover it later) these two made mistakes because hey, they haven't been chased by killers everyday of their life like Takashi or Bastien . So of course the baddies are going to get the drop on them and more than once!
In the end I really felt like these two were on an equal footing and that is not something you come across a lot in Stuart's work. The hero is usually so much more dangerous and yes, Reno is dangerous but he isn't quite as broken or cast in iron like a man much older and jaded by his work. So Jilly is able to break through many more times than any of the previous heroines with their own heroes in this series. Jilly is all youth and yet, she has power over Reno even though she isn't quite aware of it.
Then there was that joyful neediness of the young (Jilly's side) mixed with a Fuck You attitude. At times, Jilly would get all pissy and say things that A) get her in dangerous trouble and B) scare the piss out of Reno. The older heroines in previous books don't get as sassy with their heroes because with age comes wisdom - or, uh, fear - so they tend to keep their mouths shut at times you wish they would say something, anything to get the hero to react.
Now for me the book was perfect although I know there is a scene late in the story that would have most readers going 'Oh c'mon!!' but I don't care, I loved it and hey, other authors write scenes like it and don't even acknowledge that someone could have got a bullet in the ass.
I'm just saying.
I could go on - Hey, I heard that! - but I'm going to try and stop now.
It's an A for me for sure.
Now trying to be objective for other readers I would say this one should rate fairly high up there. I'll say a B to B+ for most readers because there isn't as much darkness or angst in this one.
I finished this one this afternoon and yelled down to Bob.
Me: I just finished my book *small sob*
Bob: Uh, oh. You have any other Stuarts?
Me: Are you kidding me!? (okay I do but I'm so not cracking that safe right now! I'm saving them for a time when she might think about retiring. *pleaseNOpleaseNOpleaseNO*)
Bob: Are you going to be blue?
Bob: Thought so.
My man doth know me well.
The good news though is that although I had that little pang in my heart for a few hours I'm really excited about reading the next book I can get my mitts on!
Kiss it Slumpville!!
Edited: HELP!! There is a short story on Stuart's website but for some reason I can't download it - it keeps sending me to buy the book. NOOOOOO!! I want the short story!!!