passion rating: hot
Dear Ms. Stuart—
When I saw that many of your older titles were finally available as eBooks, I thought I’d check one out. I never know whether one of your books will work for me or not, but the ones that do—Reckless and Black Ice are two of my all-time favorite novels—really do. I picked Moonrise based on its high ratings on Amazon. It’s an older book—first published it in 1996, almost ten years before Black Ice. I mention Black Ice because Moonrise reads like a pale version of that book. At its finish, I was irked at much of it and yet, in many ways, it mirrors the themes found in the Ice series which, in general, I enjoyed.
In both Black Ice and Moonrise, the hero spends a great deal of time trying to decide between two approaches to the heroine: death or sex. In Black Ice, the hero, Bastien (be still my beating heart), is a layered, complex guy, struggling in ways the reader can see with morality, with the heft our actions have, and with what it means to give up oneself to love. In Moonrise, the hero, James McKinley, is a Bud Light Bastien. James too is a killer who, while fighting for “the good guys,” realized his actions made him one of the bad ones. James too had a horrific childhood, his shaped in wounding ways by poverty and violence in Northern Ireland. Both men work for a shadow organization—in James’ case, it’s the wet work arm of the CIA—and both have killed so many times they’ve all but lost their humanity. And both, forced into company with women who place their lives at stake, find love and something worth living for in the arms of their unwanted companions. This setup works beautifully in Black Ice but disappoints in Moonrise.
In many of your stories, your hero is a stronger character than his love interest. This trend holds true in Moonrise. The heroine, Annie Sutherland, is, at 27, a pampered, sheltered, gorgeous girl. Every choice she’s ever made—what to wear, drive, even who to marry—has been defined by her father, Win Sutherland. Win, a CIA operative who went over to the dark side—Annie had no idea he was CIA, let alone a greedy killer—was found dead, six months ago, his neck snapped, at the bottom of his mansion’s porch stairs. In the months since her father died, Annie has slowly come to wonder at his death. The stories he told her about his past, upon reflection, don’t add up and, to top it off, there’s a work of art missing, a framed Irish sampler, she’s sure has been taken since his death. She’s thought about it and thought about it and has decided there’s no way her invincible Win could have fallen drunk to his death. She’s sure he was murdered. As Annie begins to look for her father’s possible killers, she’s led to James, a man she’s known all her life, now living in a shack on a remote island in Mexico. Annie, wearing high heels, a white suit, and carrying an overnight bag and a purse, shows up at James’s hovel determined to ask him to help her.
From the moment the book begins, as James is standing in the shadows outside his dilapidated cottage, watching Annie knock on his door, he’s thinking about blowing her brains out. James has killed so many people and knows those for whom he once killed are determined now to kill him. For James, there’s no reason anyone would show up in his life at this point except to want to take it. But then, he realizes the woman at his door is Annie, the daughter of his mentor and the girl he’s always longed to have. So, though he’s now thinking he should break her neck, he invites her in, hears her plea, and tells her he’ll help her find the answers, answers he tells her he’s sure she really doesn’t want to know. He drinks too much tequila, the two have elliptical conversation, and then he sends her (alone) off to bed. He stays up all night, drinking, thinking, and wondering. Should he send her on her way—he’s sure someone in the bad guy arm of the CIA will kill her—or kill her himself. Or, he wonders, after he’s wandered into her room, watched her sleep, and run his fingers through her tawny hair, is there another choice.
That other choice—and the options run through James’s brain for most of the novel—is to fuck her. There are two things one can count on in an Anne Stuart novel: death and sex. That combination can have great resonance—as it does, for example, in Ice Blue–or it can just be annoying. In Moonrise, it’s annoying.
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