Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Museum curator Summer Hawthorne considered the exquisite ice-blue ceramic bowl given to her by her beloved Japanese nanny a treasure of sentimental value—until somebody tried to kill her for it.
The priceless relic is about to ignite a global power struggle that must be stopped at all costs. It’s a desperate situation, and international operative Takashi O’Brien has received his directive: everybody is expendable. Everybody. Especially the woman who is getting dangerously under his skin as the lethal game crosses the Pacific to the remote and beautiful mountains of Japan, where the truth can be as seductive as it is deadly….
I admit I didn’t notice it reading the book for the first time but the second time opened my eyes. The author reveals the identity of the main baddie from the very beginning. Already in the foreword Stuart admits she’s modeled Shirosama on the guru of the Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyo, responsible for Tokyo subway sarin attack. In my humble opinion that way the author shot herself in the leg. Let me explain.
The whole Black Ice series is about strong, ruthless men being overcome by love when they meet the right woman. Not a bad premise but in order to make it work you have to persuade your reader that the heroes are really bad boys, as likely to murder a woman as to embrace and kiss her. In Ice Blue it was ruined for me by the author herself.
The first chapter shows us the main female lead, Summer Hawthorne, mingling with guests during a party and smearing Shirosama in her head. She hates the guy’s guts, accusing him of manipulations and greed. Small wonder, her own mommy dearest, one of Hollywood celebrities, is one of his victims. A red herring? Hardly.
In chapter number two, Summer is being abducted right after the party and we don’t doubt who is responsible – the albino Shirosama and his band of plump, brain-washed, violence-inclined followers clad in white frocks. Once again we are perfectly right. Indeed, Shirosama will chase Summer across continents and make her life disagreeable till the very end just to clasp his greedy hands on that precious Hayashi Urn. Still I wonder: what is the aim of all that? Wouldn’t it be better if the author left us guessing and second guessing the identity of the black hat? Imagine Summer wavering: Takashi or Shirosama? Shirosama or Takashi?
Then Summer is left in the oh-so-handsome-attractive-and-manly presence of Takashi O’Brien and under his protection. Ha. The fact that we are pretty sure about the identity of the main baddie makes itself felt immediately. Even though Takashi is pondering over breaking Summer’s neck more than one time, there’s no tension because we know that he can’t and won’t do it. That action would devoid murderous Shirosama of his raison d’être and finish the premise off. In this novel there’s no suspense whatsoever, sad but true.
We are left with just the romance story arc. Summer is physically attracted to Takashi from point zero. Then Taka has an opportunity to admire his girl naked while she is bathing in the awe-inspiring wooden cedar bathtub. He is not impressed – until he is, almost despite himself. Well, if I was in Takashi’s shoes I would take the tub and dump the girl but it’s only me and my mad, unrequited love for wooden bathtubs. Returning to the book: appearances play an important role. Too important I suppose. I wish those were characters. And I wish there were less telling more showing. Oh well.
I can’t help being disgruntled and dissatisfied by this one. Meh.