Thursday, January 19, 2012

To Die For by Caitlyn Willows

TITLE: To Die For
AUTHOR: Caitlyn Willows
PUBLISHER: Amber Quill
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 42k)
GENRE: Contemporary suspense erotic romance
COST: $7.00

Once a victim of domestic abuse, Zoe has moved on with her life, doing her best to rebuild with the man responsible for the damage behind bars. But now he’s out, and in a chance encounter, lets her know he’s coming after her. When Detective Frank Ludwig finds out, he swears to protect her. He’s been in love with her for six months, and damned if he’s going to let anybody hurt Zoe, even if she’s more than capable of taking care of herself…

Though this romantic suspense had a lot of potential in it, I finished it feeling like it just never quite hit the mark.

It starts off at an emotional high, as Zoe is coming off her shift where she has just saved a cop’s life by talking to him and keeping him engaged. However, in the same incident, she was also threatened. Her abusive ex-boyfriend was the criminal in question, and when he heard her voice, exploded with anger, emotions that have built since he was arrested and convicted after she’d turned him in. She arrives at a Denny’s, trying to figure out what she’s going to do next, and is dismayed to see a group of cops she works with there already. They applaud her as a hero, but when the man she’s been lusting over, Frank Ludwig, decides to join her, the whole story comes out. Frank has been in love with Zoe for months. When he hears about the danger, he refuses to see her slip through the cracks, taking her personal safety into his own hands while the department does what they can to track down her ex. Thus begins an explosive few days, as the threats escalate and the pair come to grips with their mutual attraction.

In spite of the confusing opening pages, enough becomes clear as the story progresses and Zoe opens up to Frank a little. I was intrigued about where it was going. Zoe is sympathetic and relatable to many women, insecure, plus-sized, and I liked her, even though she felt scattered. I disregarded the latter because it felt organic to her situation. I was meeting her in the middle of an emotional crisis. Of course, she’d be scattered. But what was scattered at the start became bouncing around from one extreme to another as the story progressed. It got a little tedious.

Frank proved the same. I liked him from the start, his fierce defense of Zoe, his determination to do the right thing. I was rolling onto loving him until the first time he really put his foot in his mouth. He has a tendency to stop thinking once their relationship turns sexual, and blurts out the first thing he thinks of, which is usually very much the wrong thing to say in the moment. This propensity gets worse as the story goes on, mostly because it felt like that was the only way to create any internal conflict between these two. They yo-yo like this throughout the entire book, a jerky effect that is mirrored by the stop and go nature of the suspense angle. It makes it easy to put down, even though I wanted to pick it up again moments later.

Suspense thrives on building tension, and while there is danger throughout this book, when the lulls come, the tension drops away almost entirely rather than ebb enough to relax the reader into getting sucked even harder into the next swell. I suspect it worked against me because of the extended nature of the romantic scenes within those lulls. I needed that momentum in the romance, but they went on too long for me, even as hot as these two were together.

In the end, the story was enjoyable enough for me not to regret reading it, but I ultimately feel like maybe with some tighter editing, it could have been really great.


7/10 – Minor typos and some terminology that usually turns me off, but otherwise swift and easy


6/10 – His reactions felt realistic in hindsight, but his propensity for stepping in it wore thin


6/10 – Liked that she knew how to take care of herself, but she felt a little all over the place

Entertainment value

6/10 – The pacing was rather jerky, making it easy to put down when I hit lulls

World building

7/10 – The emotional reality of Zoe’s past was well-done, but I kept feeling like I was missing something in regards to the suspense portion



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