Sunday, January 31, 2010

Freefall by Joann Ross ***

My first experience with author Joann Ross was a Louisiana bayou series (Blue Bayou and the Callahan Brothers) and I liked them. However, I didn't read any more by her until a new release came up, I believe it was #3 or #4 in a series, and it sounded good. I got the new release but never read it as I prefer to read series in order and I was moving and...

I downloaded Freefall, the #1 in this series, from and finally got around to listening to it this weekend. It was pretty good and maybe I'll get around to reading or listening to the rest of them, eventually.

This is the High Risk series, and Freefall's hero is a Navy SEAL (surprise, surprise) who left the service and is picking up the pieces of his life after a particularly bad clusterfuck in Afghanistan where most of his team - not just a SEAL team, but Rangers and Marines too - were killed. Zach's back in his hometown of Swann Island, South Carolina.

Our lovely heroine is also a quasi-resident, or former resident of Swann Island - Sabrina Swann, as it happens. Her father and mother were artsy types who traveled the world, leaving Sabrina in hotels and boarding schools all over Europe, and her grandmother's home on Swann Island, Swannsea (spelling?) is really the only place she considered home. She spent a few summers there, and during her pivotal teen years had the biggest crush on Zach. She had a terrific job, running a fabulous hotel in Florence, Italy, when BOOM a terrorist blows up the hotel, and Sabrina decides to take a hiatus and return to her roots to recover mentally. Unfortunately, her grandmother died a few months earlier and Sabrina comes back to take care of the estate.

In the midst of all this, some unnamed horrible serial killer is keeping young women caged somewhere and after treating them as slaves, murders them and moves on to the next one.

There's a secondary romance going on - best friends both to each other growing up and to Zach and Sabrina, Tatiana and Nate (he's former Marine and the sheriff now) are an ongoing romance during the story. Some of these plot points were so incredibly similar to a book I'm reading on my iPhone/kindle and another book I just read that I kept getting confused - the new sheriff being the son of the old sheriff, SEALS, girls being raised by grandmothers, all that!!

Frankly, I think authors should be more careful about names in their stories - Zach, Nate, Quinn, John - those names all ran together in my head, and I spent a fair amount of time wondering which was which while I listened. You can't really reference back during audio books to see which character said what.

It's a murder mystery background to a finding-love-again romance foreground. There's immediate chemistry between Zach and Sabrina, now that she's no longer jailbait. He's the contractor working on her grandmother's historical old home, and there's that SEAL thing going on, and his best friend the sheriff is involved, and, well, they find peace, love and the killer at the end.

The narrator was ok - she did voices well, and managed to get a different voice going for each character, but she did have an odd quirk or 2 that kept her from really being great. For one thing, those syrupy southern accents on everyone tired me out after a while. Everyone except of course Sabrina who did not grow up around there. The narrator, in my opinion, needed to stop emphasizing the letter T so much and to enunciate her vowels a little better. The words "during" and "enduring" sounded like "doring" and "endoring", as a fer instance. Those things can really mess up a good story for me - the narrator can make an OK book fabulous and a fabulous book just OK. That being said, I think the book was probably just OK even if Barbara Rosenblat had read it to me. Somehow that old hack of bringing in a second characer with murder on his mind to confuse you about who the real murderer wasn't very refreshing. The minute that fellow's motive was revealed, it was obvious he wasn't the serial killer, but just another character out for revenge.

So *** three stars for a much-used plot, much-used characters, confusing names and an OK narrator.

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