Wednesday, June 16, 2021

#TBRChallenge 2021: Fragile

The Book: Fragile by Shiloh Walker

The Particulars: Romantic suspense, 2009, Book 1 in Rafferty Brothers duet, out of print, available in digital

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: The back cover blurb intrigued. The SoCal Bloggers used to have these epic book swaps when we'd get together (back when we all were still reading print on the regular) and I suspect that's how this book landed in my TBR.

Spoilers Ahoy! Content Warnings: murdered dog, childhood sexual abuse, rape, drug use (in the past).

The Review: Walker predominantly writes paranormal (which isn't really "my thing") and I suspect I picked this up because it's billed as straight-up romantic suspense.  While I was certainly pulled in from the first chapter, it ended up being an uneven read for me - mainly due to the plot structure and the fact that the heroine is put through the wringer.

Devon Manning had a rough childhood. Orphaned, sexually abused starting at 11 by her aunt's husband, a drug addict and living on the streets by 12.  A social worker and her adoptive parents pulled her back from the brink and now Devon is a social worker herself.  

Luke Rafferty is a former Army Ranger who worked in Special Ops alongside his long-lost twin brother (they were reunited when they were 11).  After he nearly loses a leg he decides it's time to get out and find some semblance of "a normal life."  He's now a doctor working in a hospital ER, which is how he meets Devon. He's attracted to her, but how to ask a woman out on a date when she's in the ER because she's bringing in abused children?  It's not exactly "meet cute" material.

Eventually though they do start dating and this is basically the first 40% of the book.  In fact, by that point they are clearly "a couple" and Luke has decided he's in love with her.  The suspense part of this story doesn't ramp up until then.  Prior there are a few minor incidents, but nothing that seems "sinister" to Devon at first.  A missing day planner. A flat tire. A dead skunk in her back yard.  It's not until a butchered dead dog is found on her kitchen counter that her and Luke realize someone is stalking her.

This sends Luke into full-blown protective mode, even at one point hacking into Devon's email (like, seriously?!), him moving in with her, and Devon pushing back at Luke, as well as the cops working her case.  I get that Devon has a messy past but dude if I had some crazy psycho stalker I'd be an open book to the point of over-sharing. 

Anyhoodle, our bad guy is caught around 75%.  This gem of a human being ends up breaking into a neighbor's house, raping and beating that poor woman near death, and that lays the trap for Devon.  Devon, naturally, escapes his clutches - which kicks off a bunch of guilt for Luke because he wasn't there to protect her.  But we're at 75%.  You know what this means, right? Yeah, we need to put the heroine in more danger!  So our gal doesn't just have one psycho stalker - she has two.  Bad guy #2 starts screwing with her head and he's dispatched with at the end of the story.  I was still stuck on this poor neighbor woman who gets the major short-shift - but your mileage may vary.

In between there's a bunch of sex scenes.  This read a bit like a hybrid between hot contemporary and romantic suspense and it didn't really mesh well for me.When I read a romantic suspense I kinda want that to be a big focus of the story - and it just wasn't here.  The pacing didn't really work for me, although I was engaged by the characters and the story itself.  It boiled down to execution.

Also, to be frank, this is pretty dark.  I mean, the heroine has a TON of baggage and on top of that a bunch of tragedy is heaped on her over the course of the story (her BFF neighbor being violently assaulted, two crazy stalkers....).  It's a lot.  

I wasn't in love with it, but I'm half-tempted to pick up the second book about Luke's brother, Quinn, who, boy howdy, is a hot mess. It would necessitate a library check-out since it's not in my TBR and we'll see if I eventually follow through or not....

Final Grade = C+


Jill said...

I read CURVEBALL by Charlotte Stein, which is maybe cheating a little b/c it technically has a a colon and some more words to the title, but I hate that kind of title.;-) I understand it helps looking for things online, but no one ever actually says BLAH BLAH BLAH: A ROMANTIC COMEDY Volume 1. You would just say BLAH BLAH BHAH and maybe mention it's the first in the series.

Anyways, now that I'm done with my copy editor rant, I will say CURVEBALL was a cute, fast, sexy read, but it didn't make much of an impression. I had high hopes b/c I had heard good things about Charlotte Stein and I think if I read this when it came out, it might have felt like a breath of fresh air. Overweight heroine, hero she's always had a crush on and sexy times on a yacht? Sounds good! But I think fat positivity has come a long way since this was written (2015) and nothing about the hero's eventual grovel/explanation completely satisfied me. I will give it this, it was fast-paced and didn't wear out it's welcome. I might read something else by Charlotte Stein, but my taste tends to run to more tame than sexy, so it would have to be something that really appealed to me.

Ah well. Wendy, thank you for continuing to host and inspiring me to weed through the mammoth TBR pile. Onward!

Jill said...

#its welcome! Dang it! I don't usually post corrections, but trust me to mess up when I make a copy editing rant! :-)

Whiskeyinthejar said...

Ooh, a Shiloh Walker! She's definitely more on the angst and heavy topic side. I read this a little under ten years ago and liked it (I lean towards being an angst thirst trap), the #2nd in series wasn't as good for me but since you didn't like this one as much as me, maybe you'll like it.

Her The McKays series is more mainstream because St. Martin's publishes it and while it tones down the darker elements, it still kept the angst but probably easier to read for most.

I feel like we read very similar books for this month, lol. Structure, tone, not romantic, and lack of and slow romantic suspense elements were my complaints, too.

eurohackie said...

I plucked a Harlequin Romance from 1980 for my read this month, Bellefleur by Sonda Stanford. Unfortunately, it contains just about every bad cliche a late 1970s/early 1980s sweet contemporary romance can contain. Fortunately, it was only 188 pages, the plot was clear from page 1, and it was a fairly breezy read for all the wrong reasons, LOL. Frankly, I'm glad that the standard for romance writing IN GENERAL (and especially for Harlequin) has picked up considerably since this was published, because I do not understand the appeal of two characters who spend most of the book ignoring each other suddenly declaring their love for each other on the penultimate page.

Wendy said...

Jill: One would think an edit button for Blogger comments wouldn't be too big a hill to climb for Google - and yet here we are. Since I'm too cheap to pay for hosting the old adage of "getting what you paid for" definitely applies.

I read Curveball for the 2016 (!) TBR Challenge and LOVED it - although my review literally states "it didn't change my life." What Stein does so well (for me) is tension. Her stories are ripe with delicious, delirious tension. I'm always white-knuckling my Kindle screaming "OH GOD JUST KISS ALREADY!" LOL

Whiskey: I love me some angst but yeah - between the heroine's past, her job, and not one BUT two stalkers it was a bit much for me. But I kept turning the pages, it kept me engaged, and Lord knows I can't say that about every book I've pulled out of the TBR this year.

Eurohackie: There are gems to be discovered in the annals of Harlequin publishing history and then there are books that are, um, best forgotten. I'm sorry you landed on the latter but hey, it's no longer taking up space in your TBR, so winning?