Today I am very happy to host Heidenkind from Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Books who kindly agreed to discuss one of Ice series novels penned by Anne Stuart.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
In the wake of a failed love affair, brainy beauty Jilly Lovitz takes off for Tokyo. She’s expecting to cry on her sister Summer’s shoulder, then spend a couple months blowing off steam in Japan. Instead, she’s snatched away on the back of a motorcycle, narrowly avoiding a grisly execution attempt meant for her sister and brother-in-law.Her rescuer is Reno, the Committee’s most unpredictable agent. They’d met once before and the attraction was odd– tattooed Yakuza punk meets leggy California egghead–but electric. Now Reno and Jilly are pawns in a deadly tangle of assassination attempts, kidnappings and prisoner swaps that could put their steamy partnership on ice.
Why did you read it?
Anachronist:Because I am insane – it explains everything so neatly, right? ;p Speaking seriously, I was in the middle of a very demanding technical project and I simply needed something different as a kind of counterbalance. What can be better than a suspense romance in Japan? Especially one featuring characters which I knew and liked from the previous part of this series (Ice Blue )? I roughly knew what to expect so I went, I purchase, I read. What about you, Heidenkind?
Heidenkind: I’m a huge Anne Stuart fan and I loved Ice Blue, which took place in Japan AND had an art historian heroine. So it kind of went without saying that I would read this book, even though I have to confess I didn’t remember either Reno or Jilly from Ice Blue (is it unreasonable to be annoyed when I’m expected to remember secondary characters? even remembering the main characters is asking a lot).
It would be fair to say that I was super-excited Stuart was setting another book in Japan.
How did you like it?
Anachronist: it wasn’t completely bad but I had a strange case of déjà vu – almost every twist and turn of the plot seemed to be repeated from the previous novels. The ups and downs of Jilly and Reno’s love affair were almost a direct reflection of the ups and downs of the romance of Jilly’s older sister, Summer, and her now husband, Takanashi, Reno’s cousin, from Ice Blue. It was as if the author was writing the same book over and over again – the details can change like the colours and flavours of ice cream, but the more it changes the more it remains the same.
Heidenkind: The book DID feel really formulaic, although I enjoyed parts of it. I would disagree that Reno and Jilly are direct reflections of Takanasha and Summer, though–they’re just pale imitations of the original characters. Which quite honestly is ridiculous because they had their own personalities in Ice Blue.
I feel like Stuart didn’t spend as much time setting up this novel and making it work as a whole as she did with the previous three.
Did the setting work?
Anachronist:It did but I wish we were granted more Japan time, less stupid meandering to and fro.
Heidenkind: For real, I was SO annoyed when Jilly went back to ‘Merica. It’s kind of like in Pirates of the Caribbean, when they go back to the island and you’re like, “You could have finished this movie 30 minutes ago while you were on the island.” Never go back to the island. It’s a rule.
Anachronist: Right. Perhaps it was done with the American readers in mind. Some writers feel their book will be received more favourably if they add a dash of patriotism here and there.
If you were to describe the series in one sentence you would say:
Anachronist: only in a cheesy romance novel professional killers make good partners and/or husbands.
Heidenkind: James Bond if you got to bang him, and he fell in looooooooove.
What disturbed you the most?
Anachronist: I think the predictability of the plot, especially when it comes to the sex scenes. If you have read (and remember) the previous parts (like yours truly) you must admit they were completely devoid of any ‘wow’ factor – as schematic and formulaic as if the author used a simple ‘copy-paste’ technique while creating them. First base, second base, third base, repetition, somebody wants to kill you, repetition…he is a jerk, she is a brat, they quarrel, they cannot live without each other…boring.
Heidenkind: When you say the previous parts, do you mean the previous novels in the series? I don’t think Stuart’s novels in general are THAT formulaic, although this one definitely was. I don’t mind the formula, honestly, because usually it works with the character progression. But in Fire and Ice, it did feel artificial.
Anachronist: Yes, I meant the previous novels in the series. The first one I liked, the third one was ok, the rest…to tell you the truth I was too bored to read all of them.
What do you think of the main leads, Jilly and Reno?
Anachronist: They were simply watered down versions of Summer and Taka from part 3.
Pity, because I liked Reno in part 3 and also Jilly was kind of sweet with her bratty attitudes and independence. Here it was as if they all forgot who and what they used to be and behaved according to a well-known scheme. Jilly never unveils her nerdy side (she is supposed to be the family brainiac, right? An archeology student at Harvard? I would never guess) Reno, the bad boy and womanizer suddenly never even looks at another girl – it’s hard to believe he is the same guy who suggested to his cousin a threesome with Summer…
Heidenkind: VERY hard to believe, and I totally agree that it seemed like they lost their personalities between Ice Blue and Fire and Ice. I actually thought Jilly was super-annoying in Ice Blue, but I’m willing to be won over by her character, assuming she had a character here of course (she didn’t). Also, I’m a sucker for the spoiled rich girl/bad boy plot and I was really looking forward to Stuart utilizing that but she didn’t! Reno wasn’t a that much of a bad boy at all (am I really reading an Anne Stuart book right now?) and Jilly had a few moments of interest, but otherwise she was just in reactionary panic mode.
What about the HEA ending? Was it satisfying?
Anachronist: It was completely artificial – as if the author was forced to add those several k words against her better judgement because the editor insisted. Overall if I drank a glass of champagne every time Jilly’s life was endangered in this novel I would be permanently drunk for two-three days and the last chapters would send me completely over the top. Not to mention the fact that, with champagne prices, I would go bankrupt double fast.
Heidenkind: Seriously, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot costs $80! I also hated the ending. It was dragged out beyond belief. I especially hated the BBQ with all the previous characters, though, because of course I couldn’t remember who any of them were.
Do you enjoy reading those ‘family’ series, in which a bunch of different characters is presented in the first book and then some of them get their own installments to find/rediscover the love of their life?
Anachronist: I am not a fan of those, not really, although I do understand the appeal. It’s like with McDonalds – you know what to expect no matter where you are and more often than not you won’t be disappointed. It has of course good and bad sides. Good side: if you feel like reading romantic crap…er…novels, you know what to buy and there is 99% of chances you will choose right. Bad side: it is basically the same book rewritten over and over again so you get bored soon.
Heidenkind: I never understood the appeal of these “family” series, and honestly they kind of annoy me. I already mentioned I can never remember previous characters from a novel; and in addition to that, it seems like an excuse for a writer to produce a series of books like vomit that fall into the same formula without even the added annoyance of creating new characters. Laaaaaaaaazzzzzzzzzyyyyyyyyyyy.
That being said, the “Ice” series is hardly the worst example of this type of series. Actually, I think only Fire and Ice is a blip in an otherwise very good series.
Who would you recommend this novel to and why ?
Anachronist: Romance fans all over the world, but not those more demanding. Actually I suppose reading this one as the first of the series would make sense – everything else will be (slightly) better.
Heidenkind: I don’t think I would recommend this novel to anyone. Compared to most of Stuart’s work it’s a forgettable, throw-away novel, imho. If I was to recommend a Stuart book it would be Ice Blue, Ice Storm, or The Widow.
Anachronist: Ice Storm was better? Hmm…
Heidenkind: The one with Isobel? I thought that was a fun twist on the classic romantic suspense of the ‘60s, like an updated Mary Stewart novel.
Anachronist: I like twists. I might try that one.