Deception Island, a debut romantic suspense novel by Brynn Kelly - this is your warning.
Spoilers Ahead Me Mateys!
I'm always on the lookout for compelling romantic suspense, so decided to take a chance on this debut novel. It starts out promising enough but slides into Oh, Hella No territory for me the minute the heroine's Big Secret is exposed.
Holly Ryan is being paid to impersonate a pampered US Senator's daughter. Seems Laura took it in her head to sail around the world and when Daddy said no, she went to the press anyway. So the compromise is to have Holly sail the "rough bits" and in exchange she'll get money. Holly just got out of prison, having been sent there by her con man boyfriend who threw her to the wolves to save his own skin. She's needs the money to start over.
Instead Holly gets kidnapped by three goons, which is live streamed over the internet thanks to the yacht being outfitted with web cams. Holly manages to take out two of the goons, but she cannot thwart Rafe Angelito, a French legionnaire / Black Ops-type hero who has to kidnap the heiress because A Bad Man has kidnapped his 9-year-old son. The Bad Man is linked to Rafe's traumatic past as a child soldier in some third world country that's never named (at least during the 40% I read), so to have his son in the clutches of this guy is causing him to understandably freak out.
Rafe takes Holly to some remote tropical island that is apparently a secluded honeymoon destination to await instructions. Once the Senator pays the ransom, presumably Rafe gets his kid back. Of course what he doesn't know is that Holly isn't who he thinks she is - which she's not about to enlighten him about since hello? She wants to stay alive.
OK, honestly? The plot here is pretty far fetched - but this is romantic suspense, and a certain amount of over-the-top-ness should be expected. I probably would have rolled with it all better if the plot wasn't so obvious. Since Holly's kidnapping was live-streamed, what's to stop the Senator from "staging" a rescue, showing the world his daughter is OK and hanging Holly out to dry? I'm not a bad guy and heck, it's what I would do - and it's the question I immediately started asking the minute Holly is kidnapped. This thought never crosses Holly mind, until, of course, that's EXACTLY what happens. And when Rafe finds out that Holly is an ex-con and not the Senator's daughter he snaps - and I snap right along with him.
In a rage, he grabs Holly and chokes her. YES, CHOKES HER. To the point where her survival instincts kick in and she "plays dead." That's when our "hero" snaps out of it, cradles her in his arms and is all "Oh what have I done!" Holly revives, they start baring their souls, Rafe comes up with a plan and Holly is all like, "I'm coming with you to rescue your kid."
Go back and reread that last paragraph. If your jaw isn't hitting the floor yet - this should do it. Rafe is all like, "Why do you want to help me, I just tried to choke you to death" (which is explained as sort of an "out of body" moment stemming from his horrific child soldier days). And do you know what genius Holly says? "But you didn't. I don't believe you're capable of it."
HE JUST TRIED TO CHOKE YOU TO DEATH AND THE ONLY REASON HE STOPPED WAS BECAUSE YOU PLAYED DEAD AND YOU THINK HE'S NOT CAPABLE OF IT?!?!?!?!?!?
Done. I was so done. I don't care how crappy a hero's childhood is - and yes, being a child soldier is beyond way crappy. But I'm sorry. There's no excuse for CHOKING THE HEROINE WHEN YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE THE HERO! Which means now I'm immediately questioning his emotional and mental stability and quite frankly, her intelligence. I don't want to read a romance about these people. I want him under stringent psychiatric care and I want her hit by a bus. For a heroine who has supposedly been a con woman and IN PRISON, her lack of self-preservation is flabbergasting.
No. Just....no. Deal me out.
Final Grade = DNF