Pros: Fascinating male lead; great side plots; interesting psychic abilities; sexy
Cons: Initially annoying female lead; overly soap-operatic story
Rating: 4 out of 5
These days I pick up the copies I receive of ‘best-selling’ and well-known authors with some amount of trepidation—some of them are great, sure, but sometimes I end up wondering how on earth they got to be so well-known. And dissing a best-selling author often leads to hate mail. But that’s never stopped me from being perfectly willing to speak my mind (I’m stubborn that way), so I’ve never stopped picking up and trying out those books. And I enjoyed Christine Feehan’s Turbulent Sea well enough to be quite happy of that policy. While I’m not drooling over her work like a demented fangirl, I’d read more of her books—and given how little free time I have, that’s definitely a compliment.
Joley Drake has a magical voice—literally. She can sense the musical rhythms of an individual’s emotions, and use her voice to alter those rhythms. She can inflame a man’s passions or influence a woman to forgive her lover. Sometimes, however, she doesn’t control those abilities as well as perhaps she should. All too often she stokes the flames of passion in exactly the wrong kind of man.
Ilya Prakenskii may be one such man. He’s cold and heartless. Even his own men are afraid of him, and he has a reputation as a merciless hit man working for a Russian mobster. But when he gets close to Joley, all that carefully-maintained control goes out the window. It becomes difficult for him to concentrate on anything—even keeping her alive, which becomes his job when someone threatens her life and he’s taken on as her bodyguard.
Ilya may be the only man who can understand Joley. He has the same gift of voice she does, and more. And he’s left a psychic mark on her that binds them together in some way she can’t even begin to understand—but that leaves her sleepless, aching for him day and night. But can she ever hope to be happy with someone like him?
I’ll get the tough part out of the way first. Initially I couldn’t like Joley Drake. She’s fabulously beautiful, wealthy, and famous. She’s loved and protected by everyone (so much so that it became cloyingly too-sweet). She grew up in a large, happy family. She’s one of the ‘beautiful people,’ and boy howdy is it difficult to identify with a heroine like that. Particularly when she seems to find every reason possible to whine about her life and problems. Yeah, I get that fame isn’t so wonderful, and being beautiful and sexy has its down-sides. But that doesn’t make it any easier to take Joley seriously when she’s freaking out over whether people would really like her or not if they knew she kinda likes it when Ilya is strong and controlling toward her. I mean, wow, what a horrid flaw when you’re dealing with mobsters and hit men and murder (yes, that’s sarcasm, and I’m rolling my eyes here).
The book also had the feel of a soap-opera. Everybody’s rich and famous, or drop-dead sexy, or in organized crime, etc. Everybody has a stalker, or a dark secret, or an estranged wife, or an illegitimate child. Sure, some of the side plots are really well-played and portrayed, but that didn’t change the fact that the sheer number of them was ridiculous.
Still, I gave this book a four out of five, and it’s time I explained why. First of all, some of those side plots really did have a lot to them. There’s a romance I don’t want to talk about too much (don’t want to give too much away) that was just beautifully portrayed. Second, Joley becomes more likable early enough in the book to keep her from being a real problem. Third, the ‘who’s trying to kill Joley and why’ plot is actually interesting. There’s more to it than normal for a romance novel, and it truly did keep me guessing.
Finally, and most important, is Ilya himself. Until the first time we get into his head, he comes across as the exact same kind of domineering, controlling, arrogant ‘alpha male’ lead that shows up in far too many romance novels these days, and that too often has very little actual personality. Ilya, however, is different, and this becomes more and more apparent as the book progresses. He has a complex and layered personality. His need for control is explained and understandable, and neither simple nor straightforward. Although the whole alpha male thing has gotten rather old for me, I had no problems with Ilya as a character, and in fact liked him rather more than Joley for most of the book. It’s refreshing to see a male lead with so much depth and interest in a romance novel. He and Joley had plenty of chemistry, and if you’re looking for a romance with a sexy male lead, this is definitely it! [Usual adult material warning: explicit sex scenes.]