Review: Black Ice by Anne Stuart

Format: E-book
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Ice, Book 1
Publisher: MIRA
Hero: Bastien Toussaint
Heroine: Chloe Underwood
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: May 1, 2005
Started On: November 8, 2010
Finished On: November 8, 2o10

Anyone who reads romances as much as I do would have come across their fair share of heroes who are rakes, bad boys and those wickedly irredeemable men that draws a collective sigh from us female readers and makes us want to be the one who would tame the big bad boy he is grown into. Anne Stuart takes her heroes just a tad further and create heroes who have something extra that gives them an edge compared to heroes created by other authors. Her heroes are a bit darker, a bit more ruthless and they stay true to their form without coming off as a wimp at the first sight of the heroine in the story. Sometimes I tend to feel cheated out of the hype that the author tends to create with alpha heroes, painting a picture of them leading lives that have no place for a woman beside them, and suddenly at the first scent of their life partner they become the complete antithesis of their true form overnight. Thus reading about a hero such as Bastien completely made my day and has certainly whetted my appetite for more of the heroes of the “gamma” type that Ms. Stuart creates so well.

The Hero: Bastien Toussaint, 32 years of age is a man who walks a fine line between life and death in his work for an organization named The Committee, who believes that the end justifies the means no matter who or what is sacrificed in the end. Bastien has been truly honed and trained to be a ruthless and efficient killing machine since he was recruited for the organization when he was in his early twenties. Bastien had been born to a mother who had never wanted him in the first place, who had been forced to carry him to term because one of her more possessive lovers had thought the child to be his until he had known otherwise and walked out, which by the time it had been too late to get rid of Bastien. Life had hardly being idyllic for Bastien and he had followed around after his globe-trotting mother until at the age of 15 he had left home with a woman twice his age and never looked back. His current mission has been 2 years in the making and Bastien is deep undercover with a group of ruthless killers who are into arms dealing which The Committee wants an eye kept on.

The Heroine: Chloe Underwood, 23 years old is the youngest of the Underwood siblings and had grown up in the North Carolina mountainous area and has a love for languages and cooking. Fluent in French, Italian, Spanish, German with a healthy smattering of Russian and German and few bits of Arabic and Japanese, Chloe has withstood the constant pressure from her family to bow down to family tradition and enroll in medical school something which Chloe who is squeamish at the sight of blood has vowed to resist with every fiber of her being. Chloe had arrived in Paris two years back on a student visa finds work translating children’s books, a job which her vivacious friend Sylvia had found for her. Chloe yearns for a  bit of excitement in her otherwise completely dull life and gets more than she has bargained for when she meets Bastien Toussaint.

Storyline: When Sylvia pleads Chloe to take a translation job for a bunch of boring businessmen to earn a couple of hundred of Euros, Chloe though at first reluctant is no match to her friend’s persuasive nature. What Chloe thinks would be a relaxed laid back weekend at a countryside chateau turns into the most frightening experience of Chloe’s life and delivers her life with the “excitement” she has been craving for when she finds herself on the run for her life with the enigmatic Bastien acting as her savior, a man she finds more dangerous to her heart and desires than the ruthless killers who are determined that she would not live to see another day.

The First Encounter: It is when Chloe arrives at the chateau and introductions are made to the group of businessmen to whom she would be acting as a translator that Chloe lays eyes on the enigmatic and dangerous Bastien Toussaint. The attraction she feels is immediate and takes her unawares with the first glance from the fathomless dark eyes of Bastien.

Time period: This story has a contemporary setting and takes place in France and later in North Carolina, USA.

Narrated in: This story is told in both the hero and heroine’s point of view.

Awareness between the hero and heroine: From the first minute that Chloe lays her eyes on the vital and sinfully handsome Bastien, a relentless attraction takes a hold of her regardless of the fact that Bastien seems to be interested in Chloe as much as he would be for a block of wood. At first, for Bastien who has always had a ruthless command on his emotions and never lets himself feel anything except be on the lookout for his own hide, Chloe is just part of his job, a sore thumb that sticks out from the ruthless negotiations taking place in the chateau. Even then, it is Bastien’s fascination with Chloe that makes him put his cover and life on the line to save her, just in the nick of time. Even on the run, Bastien keeps his emotions and need to touch and feel Chloe reined in, because he knows that if he gives in, he would never be able to stop with just one taste.

The turning point: Chloe challenges everything that Bastien has believed of himself until now when he becomes her savior from the throes of a ruthless killer hellbent on enjoying taunting Chloe with her imminent death. On the run, it is just Chloe and Bastien as the hunger between them surges out of control making this book one of the best of its kind.

Ending: Till towards the very last pages of the story, Bastien manages to keep the readers guessing on his exact feelings towards Chloe though it is evident from his actions that she is the most important person to her in the whole world. Though the ending was a bit abrupt for my taste, it still delivered the happily ever after which Bastien and Chloe deserve at the very end.

Likes:
1- Bastien Toussaint. I just totally loved his character which didn’t just change overnight into this wimpy puddle of everlasting love at the mere sight of Chloe. Bastien is ruthless to the point where certain readers might find him offensive, but I found his ruthlessness further enhanced his attraction. The way he saves Chloe even though he is unsure of what it is exactly that Chloe manages to invoke in his cynical and ice cold heart just made my heart go Aww!! every single time! And the scenes where he sleeps with Chloe in his arms… Sigh!!
2- Some reviewers have found Chloe to be a more doormat sort of heroine but I found her to be just the right match for a man like Bastien. Chloe is no doormat mind you, but a woman who is helplessly ensnared by the heady attraction she has for a man ruthless enough to kill anyone who comes after her regardless of the fact he or she is friend or foe. How Chloe manages to chip away at the ice cold armor around his heart is what made Chloe an endearing heroine for me.

Dislikes: I was really disappointed with the fact that the ending seemed kind of abrupt. I wish that Ms. Stuart had provided us with a good epilogue that would have made saying goodbye to Bastien just a trifle bit easier for me.

Favorite Quotes

“This is a mistake,” he said quietly.
And before she could ask what, he kissed her, his long fingers holding her face still as he covered her mouth with his.
They didn’t call it French kissing for nothing, Chloe thought in her last coherent moment. He was an absolute master at it, starting with just a featherlight brush against her lips, followed by his tongue, just touching them gently. ..

He almost could have laughed. She was so offended, with little idea just how desirable she really was. He’d wanted nothing more than to strip off his clothes and crawl beneath the duvet with her, to lose himself in her body, in the darkness. He was tired, so very tired.
But he’d kept his distance, even when he read in her eyes that he could have her. He buried his face in the soft flannel, inhaling the scent of her body, her soap, her skin. She had no idea just how powerfully erotic the juxtaposition of soft, shapeless flannel covering a lithe, sexual body was. And he wasn’t about to tell her.

“If this were a different time, a different place, I would take you to bed with me and make love to you for days,” he said, his voice slow and deep and intent. “I would use my mouth on you, until no part of your skin went untouched, and I would make you come, over and over again until you could stand no more, and then I’d let you sleep in my arms until you were rested and then I would start all over again. I would kiss your wounds, I would drink your tears, I could make love to you in ways that haven’t even been invented yet. I would make love to you in fields of flowers and under starry skies, where there is  no death or pain or sorrow. I would show you things you haven’t even dreamed of, and there would no one in the world but you and me, between your legs, in your mouth, everywhere.”

“I’m going to kiss you, Chloe,” he said in a quiet 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.

Sigh! I just can’t help listen to Truly, Madly, Deeply by Savage Garden and sigh and moon over Bastien.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Rating from the sunny side of life: ★★★★★ 

Caliber Seal: OUTSTANDING READ!


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