Tuesday, 18 April 2017
#CBR9 Book 34: "Trust Me" by Laura Florand
Rating: 3.5 stars
This is the third book in a trilogy, and while you can read each of these books completely independently of each other, this book references an pretty significant event in the previous book, Chase Me, and readers who want more details may want to check that book out first (it's also the better romance of the two). Be aware that I spoil part of the plot of that one in the very first paragraph of this review, though.
Lina Farah has had to fight her entire life, to prove her worth and make it in a deeply competitive business. At the age of 26, she is the top pastry chef at a two star Michelin restaurant and she can hold her own against anyone who wants to go up against her. When a Muslim extremist cousin of hers attacks the restaurant where she and her best friends work and try to kill them all, Lina didn't hesitate to defend her loved ones. Throwing the liquid nitrogen she was working with at the terrorists, she helped make sure that no one was lethally hurt and the guilty parties were brought to justice quickly. Now she's been questioned by not only the police, but a number of French and American security operatives. As a Muslim woman, with a family connection to the main terrorist, Lina is worried that they may suspect her as well. Why else would one of the burly special ops guys take it upon himself to follow her around, observing her every move?
Seeing her very best friend (and said friend's new lover) injured and hospitalised, while she herself escaped unscathed, is not easy for Lina, and with their restaurant closed, she's going a bit stir crazy. She's working on ice sculpting with a chain saw to work off stress, but most of the time ends up decapitating the ice dragons she's trying to create. She has always been proud of her resilience and self-sufficiency, now she is scared of every shadow and sudden noise. Having a silent, six-foot, be-freckled ginger escort, who may or may not be trying to prove she has terrorist leanings, is not making her rest easier.
Special forces operative Jake Adams has been a soldier for a long time, and seen some pretty scary situations. He first laid eyes on Lina Farah when the woman acted with grace under (literal gun-) fire and threw liquid nitrogen at her cousin. As all the restaurant staff now get security escorts for the next six months, in case they draw the ire of other extremists, he takes it upon himself to guard Lina. Having never really stayed in one place for very long, and having seen first-hand more than once what a secret agent life like his can do to long-term relationships, he's never really had more than causal hook-ups and for a long time, he enjoyed himself a lot. Now, after all these years, Jake is getting ready for something more serious and permanent, and so when Lina approaches him and proposes a short-term hook-up to help her deal with her PTSD, he is actually rather hurt, having wanted to be more than used for his body with this formidable woman that he's so come to admire.
There is very little outside conflict in this book, just Lina having to deal with the aftermath of the brutal attack that left her physically unharmed, but deeply emotionally scarred. She hates being afraid and unable to sleep through the night. She hates seeing her best friend in a hospital bed and tries to deal with her fears by beating them into submission, and by creating new and wonderful dessert creations for Violette, Chase and the assorted special ops guys in Chase and Jake's crew, who all seem to congregate at the hospital every day.
Jake, while he's a big and capable soldier, who as an army sniper has dealt death to countless people all over the world, in missions he can't ever tell anyone about, is clearly a protector, and more of a beta hero than an alpha. While Chase was all loud, brash self-confidence and macho bravado in the previous book, Jake is a much more quiet and laid-back guy. He's also a lot more insecure on how to actually approach a woman he cares about, in large part because he's used to women throwing themselves at him and his team mates every time they go out - he's never had to work to impress someone. Now that he's mightily sick of one-night stands and being used for his hot body, he wants to connect with Lina, and he's at a bit of a loss as to how to do it. That Lina herself is adamant that she prefers "shy, nerdy guys" doesn't help, nor does the fact that most of Jake's team mates do their best to charm Lina as well, at least until he makes it very clear that he's not just flirting, but deadly serious about her.
While there is a lot to like in this book, it's also a bit slow and much of the early part of the book, before Lina and Jake really start to communicate properly with each other is rather frustrating. I liked the second part of the book a lot better, and I am very glad that Florand chose to have a Muslim heroine, making her strong, capable, intelligent and driven, as diversity and representation is so very important and I can't recall coming across all that many Muslim heroines (or heroes, for that matter) in my books.
I continue to enjoy Florand's contemporaries and while this isn't one of her best books, she's still more than entertaining enough that I don't regret my pre-order of this. There's still a whole bunch of Chase and Jake's team mates who can find love in future books and I look forward to their stories (especially if they involve food in some way - Florand writes about food and cooking in a marvellous way). I always want to re-visit Paris and eat myself sick when I've finished one of these novels. TL, DR - not one of her top efforts, but very enjoyable nonetheless and extra points for a Muslim heroine.
Judging a book by its cover: I know that Laura Florand self-publishes these, but still think she could have found a better stock photo to use for the cover. While at one point in the story, Lina does wear a hat to go out, this whole silly, dragging it into her eyes fits badly with the contents of the book, giving a much more light-hearted and frivolous impression than the story warrants. I also don't think the cover model appears much like the descriptions of Lina in the book.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read