Pros: Fantastic characters; plenty of heat and tension
Cons: Somewhat obvious & silly resolution to mystery; a character left unresolved.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review book courtesy of Penguin Group
I usually pass on books about society romances to my co-reviewer, Rene, but J.R. Ward’s An Unforgettable Lady (written under her “Jessica Bird” pseudonym) had a suspense/mystery serial killer angle to it, and I just couldn’t resist that. (Sorry, Rene—you’re welcome to read it too if you’d like! Of course when you see how many books I have waiting for you, you might not want another one…)
Grace Hall is a stunning society beauty, married to a Count, and an inheritor of wealth, privilege, and influence. She’s also a strong businesswoman who’s recently come to the realization that the older male board members at her father’s foundation don’t think she can run the place; her absent husband is a philandering, abusive creep; and there’s at least one bodyguard in Manhattan who is hot enough to melt even her carefully-crafted exterior.
“John Smith” is an ex-military security specialist who’s been through Hell, and pushes people away at every opportunity—especially women. When society women start dropping dead, particularly ones with ties to Grace, a contact of hers asks John to protect her as a personal favor. Before long he’s moved into the guest bedroom at her penthouse, and the two of them are trading barbs and heated stares as they try to figure out who’s killing Grace’s contemporaries and friends.
The setup is a traditional one: sophisticated, dignified woman meets gruff, wounded man with violent past. Sparks fly. Luckily, Ms. Ward turns the story into so much more than that simple plot description—primarily because she writes absolutely marvelous characters that have flair, depth, empathy, and great dialogue. The murder plot itself isn’t the greatest; the killer was fairly obvious to me, and the plot came across as rather silly, which removes some of the tension and threat level. However, in some ways this just serves to highlight how amazing the characters were. After all, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book despite the problems with the murder plot, and usually that sort of thing would annoy me to no end!
Grace and John might be archetypes, but they succeed well at not being stereotypes. Grace has plenty of her own style, backbone, and personality to give her extra dimension. And John isn’t as much of an ass as your typical gruff ex-soldier hero. Their reactions—to each other, and to their situation—make sense given who and what they are. It’s fun to see them change over the course of the book in reaction to each other, and grow as people, both in their relationship and in their greater lives.
One tiny complaint is that there’s a character introduced near the end of the book that seems oddly placed and quite unresolved. However, if you know that she’s there as a setup for a follow-on book, then it makes sense.
Even though in some ways this shouldn’t have been my kind of book, I definitely enjoyed reading it! And if I enjoyed it, I imagine people who are greater fans of the style of setup and don’t mind the murder plot getting short-shrift will love it.