Friday, June 18, 2010

Criminal Instinct by Kelly Lynn Parra

TITLE: Criminal Instinct
AUTHOR: Kelly Lynn Parra
PUBLISHER: Carina Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 89k)
GENRE: Romantic suspense
COST: $5.99

When she gets busted, Ana Moreno has a choice – go to prison or join a covert government group that busts drug dealers. She takes the job. Six months in, her life is still not on her own, but she’s making the most of it. Their latest assignment is to discover who is behind a huge shipment about to arrive in the Bay Area, and when it arrives so they can stop it. Ana is tasked with getting information on one of their suspects, the dangerous right hand man Jonas Saven, but their meeting sparks a series of events that will change Ana’s life forever…

Know what’s heartening? Buying your first book from a new publisher and getting a winner. Granted, this one has the Harlequin machine behind it, and I’m not na├»ve enough to believe it won't have its share of losers, but it’s still a good feeling to know it was okay to trust Carina this first time.

The story is a dense one, and little I can say will help clear it up without spoiling the reader too much. Ana is twenty-one and been an outsider all of her life. Half Mexican, half Caucasian, she’s never been able to fit in with any of the families she was placed in while in foster care. She’s never been comfortable in her own skin at all. Becoming a thief gave her control she didn’t otherwise have, and it’s really no surprise that she eventually got caught. She takes the offer to join SIDE, a covert government operation that uses cons to rat out and dig up intel on drug dealers for the purpose of busting them, and becomes one of this ragtag group of young offenders. Their newest assignment promises to be a big bust if they can pull it off. She gets tasked to find out about one of the smaller dealers, only to stumble right into the path of one of their prime suspects, Jonas Saven. Jonas has the air of legitimacy around him with all his various businesses, but everybody keeps telling Ana he’s the one behind the upcoming shipment. However, she’s attracted to him like she’s never been attracted to anybody else, and it’s tough to keep distance.

I loved Ana. She is the heart and soul of this story, even when it switches POV to Jonas, the bad guy, or any of the other SIDE members. She is tough and almost brittle, but there’s an unexpected vulnerability that pops through time and time again. She will always fight, even when she knows she’s outgunned, and she’s smart enough to win a good part of the time. She harbors an incredible amount of anger, though, which proves to be her downfall more than once. But in spite of it all, she is the reason I invested in this story as much as I did, unable to put it down, unwilling to stop until I saw it through to the end.

The writing helps that. The action is nonstop, the violence nearly constant, the emotions always just below the surface. Much like Ana. It was almost exhausting to read, but that might be because I read it in a single sitting. I couldn’t stop. The threat was always right there, and it felt too tenuous to put the book aside, even though I knew I could always come back to it. The level of detail creates a world that’s gritty and completely in your face, defying you to pretend it’s not real.

The other characters in this are expertly drawn, though I’ll admit I didn’t completely buy into the HEA. Jonas is quite the playboy before he meets Ana, and – surprise, surprise – she’s not his typical female type at all. I’m never quite given enough reason to believe he’s going to completely change his ways for her, though I certainly believed her response to him. The scene where each comes clean about their past, however, was tender, heartwrenching, and evocative. I just wish the stuff that came immediately afterward hadn’t spoiled the effect for me a little.

Still, this book qualifies as a keeper. If Carina ever expands into offering their books in print as well, I’ll order a copy of this for my shelves. And I’ll be on the lookout for other work by this author. I can see from her website she does YA, which unfortunately doesn’t interest me at all. But if she’s going to continue with adult titles as well, I’ll be right in line to buy.

Readability

9/10 – Dense with action, terse and vivid, almost exhausting in pace

Hero

7/10 – Sexy, enigmatic, and loyal

Heroine

9/10 – Tough and heartbreakingly vulnerable, all at the same time

Entertainment value

8/10 – I didn’t completely buy into the HEA, but the nonstop action and my love for the heroine makes this a keeper

World building

9/10 – Gritty and in your face

TOTAL:

42/50

1 comment:

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

Thank you so much for the review!! I'm thrilled you enjoyed CI and Ana! Not everyone "gets" her so it's so great to know you have. I'm new to the adult genre so I'm definitely trying to gauge how people feel with this book.

Thank you again for sharing and for giving a new RS author a chance!

~Kelly