Series: Wounded Warrior

The Stranger by Anna del Mar

The Stranger by Anna del MarThe Stranger by Anna del Mar
Series: Wounded Warrior #2
Published by Carina Press on August 22nd 2016
Pages: 323
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The scars of the past have left their mark, both physical and emotional, on former military pilot Seth Erickson. Off-grid in the far reaches of the bitter Alaskan wilderness, he wants only to be left alone with his ghosts. But he can't ignore a woman in need—beautiful, stranded and nearly frozen with fear.
Summer Silva never imagined that the search for her missing sister would leave her abandoned on a wintry back road, barely escaping with her life from a cold-blooded killer for hire. Now, hiding out in the isolated cabin of the secretive wounded warrior who saved her, Summer knows she must do what she fears most. Putting her trust in a stranger is all she has left.

After a fiery first night together, Seth and Summer are bound by a need as powerful as a Bering Sea superstorm—and vulnerable to enemies just as fierce. For Seth, reawakened by desire, there is no sacrifice too great, no memory too dark, to keep Summer safe. But murder and treason lurk everywhere and Summer may not survive Alaska's ruthless winter.

Reading ‘The Stranger’ is akin to driving along several miles of straight road interspersed with the occasional slight chicane and curve on the uphill or the downhill portion before it straightens out again. Amidst the stunning but harsh Alaskan wilderness, Summer’s and Seth’s backstories build from opposing directions, but somehow, somewhere, the plot lost its focus. It simply wasn’t tightly woven enough; Summer’s search for her sister became lost in Seth’s own company woes and for long stretches I had no idea where everything was heading to at all until the mystery and the action returned only full force towards the end.

This sense of discontinuity from the alternating first person POV and the lack of flow between chapters, made the story hard to latch onto. By the time I crossed the halfway mark, I started skimmed, tired of the banter, the seemingly inconsequential plot turns that felt like dead ends and the characters who somehow don’t seem sufficiently stable to be grounded as leads. But Seth Erickson is more than just a grouchy ex-military pilot with PTSD; he’s one who looms so large that he might as well be an Avenger-type superhero, like Christian Grey with more physical scars and less kink tendencies – whose heroic deeds, lauded by all, could only be matched by Superman’s.

The contrast between the near-untouchable Seth and Summer was yet another gap that the book tried to bridge with several scenes that I thought over-inflated the plot instead. Parts of Summer’s dialogue and state of mind – don’t even get me started about that bloody weird sleepwalking and aura business – that made her seem more like a spoiled, headstrong teenager who attracts trouble than the independent, mature woman that the author wants to portray. Her decision to trust Seth’s own nemesis towards the end – then hoping that Seth would forgive her – made me wince at her at the peak of idiocy. Most other secondary characters felt like caricatures that somehow defined themselves as starched up Downton Abbey tossers, alley trash or moustache-twirling cackling villains.

I wish I could have liked this as much as I did the first in the series, which felt more raw and gutting and perhaps, closer to what I’d expect of the romantic suspense genre. Ultimately, I struggled through the pages of ‘The Stranger’, convinced that the first person POV and the drifting plot did the whole book a disservice, making the story more New-adultish and consequently, more juvenile than it should feel.


The Asset by Anna del Mar

The Asset by Anna del MarThe Asset by Anna del Mar
Series: Wounded Warrior #1
Published by Carina Press on February 1st 2016
Pages: 224
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Ash Hunter knows what it is to run. A SEAL gravely injured in Afghanistan, he's gone AWOL from the military hospital. Physically and mentally scarred, he returns home to his grandmother's isolated cottage—and finds a beautiful, haunted stranger inside.

Lia Stewart's in hiding from the cartel she barely escaped alive, holed up in this small Rocky Mountain town. Surviving, but only just. Helping the wounded warrior on her doorstep is the right thing to do…it's loving him that might get them both killed. Soon, Ash realizes he's not the only one tormented by the past. Pushing the limits of his broken body, testing the boundaries of her shattered soul, he'll protect Lia until his last breath.

A surprisingly gripping read, despite the amount of second-guessing involved and the several bizarre dialogues between a rock-solid pairing of a scarred, broken ex-soldier and a woman who has triumphed over a nightmare of a past. Anna del Mar doesn’t shy away from the brutality of rape or the violence that women – or of victims in general – face and apart from some questionable actions on Ash’s part, this was overall, a solid read that makes me wonder what the second installment already is about.