I need to preface this review with a level set on the target demographic, which in this case, is the female reader who is comfortable with her feminine character being a hard-charging hero who still capable of nurturing and love. Because that’s Lexi.
This is definitely a genre-crosser: dominantly thriller (cloak and dagger escapade and tension) with a strong female lead, with a generous dollop of paranormal and a healthy thread of romance. I was getting the latter part as soon as the romantic entanglement was introduced and the MC (first-person) started describing that guy. Definitely ‘female gaze’ oriented. Which is fine — I have read a few full-strength romance novels to get an idea what the Romance genre is about (those sell, so are worth studying!) and in this case, the romantic angle is worked in very delicately. But not my first pick in a theme for my books.
Characters are delivered with enough detail to stand up and are humanized well. It is a bit weird that a dominant character in the beginning (Dave) does not show up again after the middle of the book, as he seemed quite instrumental to get the story going. Other than that, no anomalies; just the right amount of people to give the story texture without requiring a scorecard.
I enjoyed Quinn’s very tight, cogent prose. She’s a pro, and it shows. There are only a few places in the novel I would have pared back the descriptives, and the pace was spot on 99% of the time. She builds tension along multiple fronts, kudos for that. Again — demographic here — I did not get into the ‘this is what we’re cooking’ bits as much as I imagine someone who actually does cook (rare for me) and is passionate about it. Meanwhile, the ramping of tension and the action scenes are very well done. Quinn has a blog called “Thrillwriting” and she is a master of the craft. The tension of threat to the MC and the no-nonsense approach to the MC’s dealing with threats kept me interested and indeed, in the last third, really glued to the page.
I did struggle with two aspects of the novel: one is genre-related. The paranormal stuff was just too matter-of-fact. It presupposes the reader’s expectations, as the characters around the MC are like ‘wow, that was cool,’ where in real life, I’d be freaking pretty heavily at what happens. I prefer my magic in all-out fantasies, but that’s OK, different strokes.
The other issue is more problematic and more tied to my own experience with being injured (too many times) and stitched up. (spoiler) the MC gets shredded by a knife-wielding assailant pretty badly all over her torso, and is up and cooking full meals just days later. I really had to suspend disbelief, and it was a distraction, as I remember too well that horrible feeling it is when your skin is not quite put together, and you just don’t want to move. And she’s going without pain meds. Finally, I felt the MC, at 20 years, had mastered arts that would take longer to master: cooking, martial arts, stealth, weapons handling. Embarrassing experts in the field. OK, she’s a hero, I get that, but now and then I was thinking, ‘as if!’
Bottom line, though, Quinn kept my interest the whole way through and she really cranks up the pace in the last 30%, with twists, turns and slam-bang action. A good light reading/airplane book, and there is a whole series to follow if you dig it.