Agent Bride by Beverly Long
The Particulars: Romantic suspense, Harlequin Intrigue #1608, 2015, Book #2 in Return to Ravesville series (stands alone well)
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: It is a truth universally acknowledged that when Wendy is at conferences she will grab any Harlequin not tied down. I picked up this one at RT 2016 mostly because of the striking female cover model (Her make-up is flawless and that veil? Swoon).
The Review: Cal Hollister is a former Navy SEAL (because of course he is) now honorably discharged, with no job, and at loose ends. As much as he's loathe to return to the tiny Missouri town where he grew up, he knows he can no longer avoid it. His older brother shouldn't have to carry the entire burden of fixing up their stepfather's house to sell. Complicating matters is that a freak snowstorm has blown through Missouri and travel conditions are not ideal. So it's really amazing that Cal happens to notice what looks like a white flag flapping along the side of the road. When he stops to investigate he discovers it's an unconscious woman, wearing no shoes, and in a bridal gown. That white flag was actually her wedding veil.
"Stormy" has no idea what has happened. She wakes up half frozen to death looking into the eyes of a stranger. And when he asks her what her name is? She has no idea. She has no idea about anything. Who she is, how she got on the side of the road, and why she's wearing a wedding dress. What she does know is that something is not right and it becomes apparent to both her and Cal that whoever she is? She's in deep doo-doo. Because some very bad men are out looking for her.
I read this book while traveling and it truly was perfect airplane reading. The suspense hooked me right away and the amnesiac bride angle? I mean, how can you not LOVE that?! Stormy's memory comes back in drips and drabs, and as resourceful as Cal is (hey, the guy was a SEAL), our heroine isn't entirely helpless, faulty memory aside. Once Cal realizes that she's in some type of danger, his hero instincts kick in and they work to solve the mystery of her identity together. I loved reading about them fitting the puzzle pieces back together.
What doesn't work so well? The romance. As compelling as the suspense and the amnesia storyline is, the romance felt like an afterthought. I bought into these two as "a team" but as far as sexual tension? Not so much. Also this story takes place on a very abbreviated timeline - Cal finds Stormy on a Wednesday and she "knows" that Saturday is somehow super important. She's not sure why, she just knows it is. So to have them solve the mystery, have sex, save the day, and fall deeply in love to the point where Cal is talking "let's get married" at the end? Yeah, no. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Why oh WHY could this not have been a Happy-For-Now (HFN)? This is the 21st century - we don't need all our romances to end with a marriage proposal (no, really - we don't). Especially in books where the couple hasn't even known each other for a week and one of those characters is SUFFERING FROM AMNESIA!
Which leaves the suspense. Remember how I said the suspense was really good? Well it is, until it isn't. It kind of falls apart at the end. Namely, why Stormy was wearing the wedding dress. Long explains it, but dang if it isn't weak-sauce. As in, super weak. Look, I know villains don't always think in a logical manner, but this strains the seams considerably. It just doesn't hold up to any kind of scrutiny.
What we have here, ladies and gents, is the very definition of a meh read. The suspense starts out great, the romance is ho-hum, but then it all kind of falls apart at the end. But you know what? It kept me entertained while I was traveling to the point where I didn't want to put it down and I inhaled it in a matter of hours. So hey....it wasn't all bad.
Final Grade = C