Sunday, November 18, 2012

REVIEW: Tracking Shadows by @ReganBlack #paranormal #romance #ebook #review #indie

Book 4 in the Shadows of Justice series.
Read my interview with the author here.

Genre: Romantic Suspense w/Paranormal Elements
My Usual Genre? Yes on the Romantic Suspense; no on the Paranormal elements but that was just some psychic powers, not weird creatures of the night or demons, so that aspect of the book didn't bug me much.
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars false (4 out of 5 stars)
Why I Read This: Cover caught my eye during a free giveaway (a year ago) from a Twitter contact that I did not (at that time) know very well, so I figured why not? Actually, I solicited her for the name of her cover designer and we ended up chatting ever since. Still took me a year to get to her book. Click through the jump-break to read my review.

NOTE: You can win a copy of this book in my Ginormous 30,000 Hit Giveaway. Winners will be drawn Dec 14-16. Enter now!

My Review:
From the start, the author's voice is gripping and original. I absolutely loved the opening scene of the book. Interestingly, I didn't realize this was Book 4 of a series until I remembered to go add it to my currently-reading shelf on Goodreads. That's when I noticed it was part of a series, so I guess that says the book opens independently enough I don't feel I've missed something in an earlier book of the series.

On the downside of that same coin, however, the story jumped right in without any backfill on the series' events, the world or the characters' previous history in the series. I didn't "need" this info to follow the story in this specific book, but in retrospect, I think some series connectivity would have improved the early chapters of this book. For instance, I was starting to get confused with the vague references to "Slick Micky" or "the Slick Micky." Not only did I keep wanting to spell it "Mickey" but the presence of "the" (as a title rather than a name) made me wonder who or what this person was and/or how many of them are there? It was obviously part of the mystery of the story but I think it was one of those cases where the author withheld just slightly too much and left the reader uncessarily confused. It was just slight, though, not enough to ruin my entire reading experience.

One of the things I loved the most--and right out of the starting gate--was the author's voice. Regan paints rich word pictures and uses a gritty gumshoe tone to build a suspenseful ambience against which the story unfolds in layers. It's not quite peeling an onion but there is definitely a detective novel feel to the start of this book.

With the introduction of a new character, Trina Durham, in Chapter 2, I found myself really liking someone and not caring that I didn't know where or when I was or what made the world the way it seemed to be. The fact that the character distracted me from my analysis proves her richness and depth. I did remember reading in a description of the book that there was a psychic assassin or something like that and at the time, I recall I'd rolled my eyes at the idea, but the more I read, the more I became a fan. The scene where Trina is a veritable killing machine was awesome - a very crunchy fight scene worthy of a milfic novel. The "psychic" skills definitely enhance Trina's killing abilities.

Unfortunately, in Chapter 3 when the POV changed, I got distracted again by the lack of time, place, setting details. I kept wanting to know when this was--obviously in the future, but the date is never stated--and what it was that happened between now and then. The future world was changed, not quite dystopic but there was talk of sugar and coffee being outlawed. It sounded like a joke at first (satire?) but it quickly became apparent that Regan intended it to be a part of the future world. I spent too much energy trying to figure it out to stay really invested in the story.

Given how completely Trina's character sucked me in during Chapter 2, losing me in Chapters 3 and 4 due to world-building seemed off. The quality of writing was superior to this level of mistake. It was at this point I took off one star from my 5-star rating and sadly, I kept myself "on guard" for the rest of the book, looking to see if this star could be redeemed or if I needed to take away another. I would have preferred to just read the book and not be on the lookout for issues. Had the world building been solid in the first few chapters, I would definitely have just read for the sheer joy of this book and how well it was written.

There was one other instance of "author withholding" that definitely caught my attention and would have distracted me but thankfully, Regan answered the question right away, around the 25% mark. It has to do with the Slick Micky character's real identity. I'll refrain from giving away that spoiler here. It's a good one, though.

After this point, I just loved all of the crossed paths plotting! The pacing in the middle really picked up and since I was finally, fully-invested in the two main characters, I started flying through the book, yearning to read more when I had to go to work or do something else. Thinking about a book when you're not reading it is always a sign of a writing job well-done.

In the second half of the book the story turns, changes tone slightly from the gumshoe detective novel into a more classic romance novel. This is pretty much the definition of a classic Romantic Suspense novel. The two MC's have an awesome first kiss and I just loved the plot twist about Joel's appearance due to his prior injuries. I like to have flawed Heroes that are so attractive inside you just don't care what they look like. I found the whole "kiss in darkness" to be iconic.

Then, finally, when I got to the big sex scene, it was just as hawt as had been promised by that first kiss. The romance novel side of this book was completely rewarding, while there was very little actual sex. It was more romantic than it was sexual, which honestly, I prefer (despite being known for my own steaming hot and explicit sex scenes).

Finally, we come to The End and Regan still managed to impress me one more time. See, I love symmetrical plotting--those times where we come, at The End, to the same scene we visited at the beginning but with a new outcome. I often try to do this myself, as a Romantic Suspense author, but it's not as easy as it sounds. When it clicks into place for an author, it's magical and this really clicked for Regan.

The ending left me satisfied with Joel and Trina's romance, satisifed enough with the mystery-style plot but still interested in reading more about this world and the people in it.

My one and only gripe, even at The End, was that I still had no world-building backfilled anywhere. I have to subtract one full star for that lack; otherwise, I could find no flaw or fault with this book. It was exceedingly well done from plotting, pacing and character development through to the imaginative ideas and original voice. And my final word on this? I would definitely read more by this author.

Sarah, The Webbiegrrl Writer

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