Beneath the Surface by Melynda Price

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 5th September 2016
Beneath the Surface by Melynda PriceBeneath the Surface by Melynda Price
Published by Montlake Romance on September 13th 2016
Pages: 347
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two-half-stars

He was the last man she wanted to turn to for help. But when freelance journalist Quinn Summers uncovers a shocking secret with the potential to rock Washington, DC, she reluctantly finds herself on his doorstep. Someone intends to silence her forever, and Asher Tate may be all that’s standing between her and a vicious killer.
Overbearing, arrogant, and insanely hot, the ex-marine Special Forces officer turned mercenary for hire is no bodyguard—especially when it comes to the stubborn woman who sets his blood on fire as quickly as his temper. Quinn Summers is a powder keg of trouble just waiting for a match, and he isn’t surprised that the feisty beauty has made some dangerous enemies.
To survive, she’s going to have to play by his rules—and that means stepping into Asher’s world, where he controls the playing field. But in his fight to save Quinn’s life, he just might end up losing his heart.…

‘Beneath the Surface’ is a quick, though not unpredictable read, delivering in the first few pages at least, a pop-corn throwing moment when Quinn Summers discovers her dead roommate and a plot to off her. It’s a perfect setup and a plunge into heart-pounding action that had me rather excited initially, until the story meandered a little to focus on the romance as Quinn gets placed in Asher Tate’s custody.

Apart from main characters conforming to stereotype, ‘Beneath the Surface’ did have a decent, entertaining plot that threw me for a thrill ride or two, with a suspense plot that had the potential to be sharper and nuanced. (The ungrammatical German left me wincing though) The case of the mercenary group involved in human trafficking was interesting, though I had faint regrets that it didn’t become a bigger conspiracy to unravel with political ramifications thrown in. I wanted to be immersed in the complexity of the case, and with the characters, globe-trot to exotic locations, feel the dirt on my face and the gunfire more closely on my arse, but all these only happened in the last quarter of the book.

Quinn exemplifies the typical female lead, or at least how many romantic suspense authors envision their heroines: independent and strong, yet with a hurt past with less experience than her male counterpart and proves to be the only one who makes him work and sweat. It’s harder to like Asher though: smug, cocky and arrogant and thinks he’s heaven sent to women who can’t resist him, so it comes as a surprise that Quinn is the only one who can. He’s also a stereotypical male lead of romantic suspense – a somewhat tortured no-commitment type who uses the convenient excuse of not being around long enough so all he’ll take is sex (as evidenced by the very distasteful sex he has with another woman in front of Quinn at their initial meeting), yet has a protective gruff side for the woman he can’t have. And then he finds he can commit after all when things come to a head.

What I found difficult to swallow was the case of instant love declarations after a night of blistering, adrenaline sex caused by a near-accident, more so because the non-committal manwhore suddenly flips to devoted monogamy like a light switch. I thought that most of their relationship was more lust-driven and concerned with bodily parts reacting when someone – typically in a state of partial undress – is near. Every action, no matter how innocent, was magnified to have a corresponding sexual awakening of some body part, contributing to the growing sexual appetite of both parties. With a connection that was little more than skin deep and made by proximity, it was hard not to question the validity of this pairing that didn’t seem compatible beyond their want for each other.

My struggle with spectacle versus substance is never clearer each time I get down to romantic suspense and it’s a tricky balance to get right for me at least. ‘Beneath the Surface’ isn’t written badly but it lacked some edge and while I’m cautiously optimistic to see how Melynda Price might develop this series, I’m still sitting on the side of neutral and doubtful.

two-half-stars

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