Underwhelmed. Maybe my hopes for this book were just too high. While I loved, loved, loved the first two in this series, I was sadly underwhelmed with this one. I did enjoy it, but in the end it didn’t have the same level of suspense mixed with great characters that I loved in the first two.
Run From Fear is Talia and Jack’s story. The last we saw of these two she had helped serve the final nail that brought down a massive international crime ring, and then went back into deep hiding where only Jack, her former bodyguard, knew how to find her.
This story takes place two years later with Talia and her little sister living in Palo Alto, California and no longer in need of their false identities. She hasn’t seen nor heard from Jack in two years, and then he walks into the restaurant where she is working to say hello. Jack works for Gemini securities and is in town for a few months on a big job.
Talia has changed quite a bit from the woman we knew in the previous books. No longer the trophy girl with fancy clothes and makeup, she is making it on her own and trying to live a simple life. She has been training in martial arts, and is determined never to be a victim again. But she begins to suspect foul play when it appears a petty burglar has tried to get access to her home. Then odd romantic items begin showing up that reminds her of her past with David Maxwell. Without any real threat, there isn’t much the police can do. But when it appears that a local kidnaper and rapist has ties to her past, the threat becomes quite real.
I think this is where the story starts to go wrong for me. We learn right off the bat that the evil bad guy of this story is not someone from her past coming to settle an old score, but a psycho copycat serial killer named Eugene Kuusik. He is fascinated with the legend of Nate Brewster, aka ‘The Seattle Slasher’, the man who tried to kill Talia while slowly torturing her. So while Talia’s past may be coming back to haunt her indirectly, the suspense just wasn’t on par with the last two books. She ruined many lives in the previous books, so it felt off that it was a stranger who is causing her problems now.
Unlike the previous two books, this one had very little mystery for the reader to solve. We are told in full detail about the crimes and his intentions all the way through. And there wasn’t the ‘race against the clock’ kind of feeling we got in the first two books either. There were a few twists toward the end that helped, but oddly made the story only that much more bizarre too. Turns out she doesn’t have just one stalker after her, but two! You’ll guess that early in the book so this isn’t much of a spoiler, but this means poor Talia has had three stalkers after her in her life. Really?
But the real issue I had with Run From Fear wasn’t so much the lackluster suspense, it was the fizzle of a romance between Talia and Jack. He was too good for her. Period. I really didn’t like this new Talia, or her snotty little sister. She treated him terribly though much of the book, she let her pride get in the way far too many times, and she made foolish decisions repeatedly. Would I call her a TSTL heroine? No, but she came real close too often for my liking.
Jack was hands-down the best part of the book, and he is worth getting to know. He is awesome hot, amazingly protective, has a heart the size of Texas, and only has eyes for Talia. Sigh. ;-) We also learn he has a thing for rescuing ‘wounded birds’, and has failed at trying to save women in the past who were not willing to accept his help or do the right thing. He realizes Talia is another wounded bird, and tries like mad to get her to make the right choices for her own protection.
I really wanted to love this book, but in the end it was just OK. This is one of those romances where I just don’t understand what the hero sees in the heroine. I LOVED Jack, and my heart broke for him over and over in this story as he tried to reason with Talia. But she was so focused on her spoiled/wounded pride she was not able to see Jack clearly or logically. When he *begged* Talia to take him back, I about lost it. I don’t mind a good grovel when the hero really fucked up, but that wasn’t the case. Talia was the one who f'd up, not Jack. It was always about her wounded pride and not any mistake he made. This got so old!!
The romance never fully heated up for me because Talia remained cold and distance through most of the story. Initially I gave her a big break because I understood the trauma she endured, but I felt her attitude against Jack went on far too long and was simply too much at times. On the bright side, if you are a fan of the Gemini series you might enjoy this one a bit more as we see all the major players from that series.