Flower in the Desert by Lavender Parker
The Particulars: Hot Contemporary Romantic Suspense, Novella, 2014, Digital-Only
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: Oh, it's probably been a couple of years now, but a bunch of bloggers did a read-along, book-club-like thingy with this novella. What ended up tipping me over the edge though was that author Jill Sorenson liked it. Jill is one of a handful of authors that when she recommends something, I tend to like it. Plus it was reasonably priced to the point where I had no qualms about taking a chance on an unknown-to-me author.
The Review: I try to concentrate on my print TBR for the Challenge but after DNF'ing three Harlequins in a row, I felt like my print TBR could no longer be trusted. So I went to my Kindle and dug up this novella. Which, like all things in my TBR, I meant to read ages ago.
Ruby Lucas is having a really bad day. She regains consciousness to discover she's trapped in the trunk of a car. She's boiling hot, thirsty, and disoriented. She's a romance heroine, so naturally she gets herself free only to discover she was locked in the trunk of her car and driven out to the middle of the Grand Canyon. Oh, and whomever tried to kill her took her car keys. Because, of course.
Ruby's ex-husband has reported her missing. Since Ruby lives in Las Vegas and she disappeared in the Grand Canyon - the FBI is on the case. They end up calling in Jase Rivers, a civilian contractor and experienced tracker who knows the area like the back of his hand. He takes one look at Ruby's photograph and is a goner. Given the details of the case he firmly believes she's dead and he's being brought in to recover a body and make a case for murder (likely against her ex-husband because that dude just smells wrong). Imagine his surprise when he finds her alive. Barely. But she's alive.
First things first, I was expecting a darker story, but this is pretty much straight-up hot contemporary. The sex is what I would classify as "what erotic romance read like 10 years ago" which is to say what people are calling "hot contemporary" these days (Cripes, I'm feeling old). Anyway, I really liked both of these characters. Ruby is like your best friend, or the woman you don't mind seeing at play dates (she has two young children with her ex). Jase is your standard loner hero, and with a huge sigh of relief, even though he is part-Native American, there's none of the mystical noble savage mumbo jumbo that has plagued Native romance heroes for too many years to count. Once they're out of the Grand Canyon the main driving conflict is their difference in lifestyles. Ruby lives in Las Vegas (and likes it) and Jase is a loner who prefers to live in the middle of nowhere (literally).
Where this story doesn't quite work is when you start squinting in between the lines. When Jase sets out to find Ruby he's carrying an FBI issued radio. When he finds Ruby does he use said radio to alert them he's found her? No, of course not. Yes, Ruby is near death and he's dealing with that - but a quick "Hey I found her, we're at these coordinates" doesn't seem like it would take that much effort and/or time. OK, it is raining rather hard when he finds her so maybe the signal is crap. But we'll never know because our hero doesn't even bother to check. He doesn't think about the radio in his backpack until, naturally, "something happens" to where he loses said radio and they're stranded with limited supplies and no immediate help on the horizon.
Does it juice some more suspense into the narrative? Yes. Does the hero come off looking incompetent when he's supposedly "an experience tracker?" Yes.
Also, a reminder to those reading this post that I like short reads. After all, I'm the girl who can't say no to a Harlequin. But I feel like the author tried to do a little too much with this story in a novella format. Ruby is abducted, rescued from the Grand Canyon, the Bad Guy is caught, there's a trial, there's some totally reasonable drama with her kids, and oh yeah....THERE'S A ROMANCE! There's leaps ahead in time, and a healthy amount of Insta-Lust/Insta-Love. I kind of wonder what this story could have been had the author fleshed it out to single title length. I think it could have been a really great survival romance with lots of action-packed twists and turns.
As it is? I liked this but wasn't wow'ed by it. It's a good, solid read and it kept me engaged - which after DNF'ing my first three attempts for this Challenge is a minor miracle. I feel like this is hovering somewhere between a high C+ and a low B- and well, I like to round up.
Final Grade = B-