The job was a killer.
Living paycheck to paycheck in Paris, American book translator Chloe Underwood would give anything for some excitement and passion–even a little danger. So when she’s offered a lucrative weekend gig translating at a business conference in a remote chateau, she jumps at the chance to shake things up.
Then by chance Chloe discovers her employers are anything but the entrepreneurs they appear, and suddenly she knows far too much. Her clients are illegal arms dealers, and one of them is ordered to kill her. But instead, Bastien Toussaint drags Chloe away, and the next thing she knows she’s on the run with the most terrifying and seductive man she’s ever met. What were his motives–and would she live long enough to find out?
* * *
I started to read this late one evening/night last week. I wanted to read for one, maybe two hours and then go to bed.
Fast forward a few hours. It’s 2:30 a.m. and Chloe just got on a plane to the States, also known as page 301. I have this feeling/knot in my stomache I get when I’m reading a special-to-me book, but I have to get up early the next morning, so I need to sleep and page 301 is a good place to stop. And since I’m really responsible, I get up and go to bed.
Fast forward ten minutes and I get up again.
I have to finish this novel.
* * *
One of the first things I think: this is different that the other romantic suspense novels with serial killers I have read so far. I’m not much for spies in historicals, but I really dig the secret agent angle in this one. It reminds me of movies like the Jason Bourne trilogy and some James Bond. I love it.
One of the first things I realize: Stuart isn’t afraid to put her characters through the wringer and I love it.
Black Ice is a tightly paced novel. There are only two POV characters: Chloe and Bastien. No detour to other characters for whatever reason. The story is focused with nearly no noticeable padding.
Black Ice is a stark, economical and tightly written novel:
But just as she was about to let herself sink into the pleasure of it, nasty little warning bells stopped her. He was, oh, so adept. He knew how to kiss, how to us his lips, his tongue, his hands, and if she were just a little more stupid she’d be awash with desire.
But something wasn’t right. It was a performance that even she could see through. He was making all the right moves, saying all the right things, but some part of him was standing back, coolly watching her response.
Her hands, which were just about to clutch his shoulders, pushed him away instead.
[…] she wanted to see what it would be like if he really kissed her. Not a performance, meant to dazzle her. But something he wanted as much as she did.
because later you get this:
“I’m going to kiss you, Chloe,” he said in a quite voice. “Just a simple kiss goodbye. And then you can forget all about me. Stockholm Syndrome is nothing more than a myth. Go home and find someone to love.”
She didn’t bother trying to explain. She simply stood there as he cupped her face in his hands, warm, strong, hands that had protected her, killed for her. His lips were whisper-soft against hers, just a touch. He kissed her eyelids, her nose, her brow, her cheeks with the tears streaming down them, he kissed her mouth again, a slow, deep, gentle kiss that held all the promise of what they would never have. It was the kiss of a man in love, and for a moment she simply floated, lost in the perfect beauty of his mouth on hers.
He released her. “Breathe, Chloe,” he whispered.
“Breathe, Chloe” probably doesn’t have much impact when you just look at the quote alone. But I included it because when you read the novel, there is this build-up with these words throughout the story, and when you read them in this quote – and the other times this line is used – all this build-up is there and…well, “breathe” really got to me.
Then there is the use of the color black and the ice-imagery and on the whole a story that makes no compromise and doesn’t hold back and it’s far from pretty so pretties like “breathe” really get special, and there is the last sentence of the novel…
…and I’m blown away.