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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Advance Review: Under the Surface by Anne Calhoun

Yet another romantic suspense that didn't really work for me.

Format: .mobi (A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of an honest review. )
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: May 31, 2016

Welcome to Eye Candy, the East Side’s hottest nightclub where the bartenders are hot, the cocktails are fancy, and danger lurks just under the surface…

Eve Webber, the gorgeous and savvy owner of Eye Candy, knows better than anyone that growing up on the wrong side of the tracks comes with certain complications. Determined to run a clean business and fix up the East Side, Eve’s plans get temporarily stalled when a potential new hire walks into her bar. The sexual chemistry crackling between them is a potent distraction…even if she refuses to mix business with the promise of pleasure.

Detective Matt Dorchester lives by strict rules that have kept him alive in impossible situations. When his latest undercover assignment has him playing a bartender, his desire for the passionate owner has him breaking every single one. Eve is in danger and her life depends on his secrecy. But once their attraction reaches a climactic conclusion, Matt must make a desperate choice: Tell her the truth about who he really is—or risk a once-in-a-lifetime love to save her life?

Eve Webber wants to run a clean business on the East Side and hopefully begin a transformation that will have the run down, criminal activity hotbed kicked out and respectful businesses brought in. Her bar is running smoothly until a new bartender walks in and the trouble begins.

Going undercover as a bartender should be easy for Matt Dorchester but his attraction to his boss combined with the clues that she’s in over her head make his assignment that much more difficult. A relationship isn’t something either one is looking for but when things get dangerous, Matt and Eve start to spend a lot more time in close quarters than before.

Okay so I don’t mind an emotionally closed off hero in a romantic suspense but holy cow this guy was so incompetent at his job! Matt is working undercover at Eve’s bar yet he’s constantly daydreaming, for lack of a better word, about Eve, about how he feels when he’s around Eve and of course, what is he going to do about Eve. All this musing and daydreaming made for some sloppy detective work, not to mention his reactions when the stress was high and Eve’s life was in danger. Matt was supposed to be one of the top detectives yet he behaved like a rookie at almost every turn! It was dumb luck that Eve didn’t get killed early on in the story because Matt did not do well under pressure, much less when he was with Eve, which was pretty much in every scene. To me his inner monologue was a bit teeny bopper and made me question his maturity. Bottom line? I wouldn’t trust this guy to protect my sandwich much less my life.

Eve was only slightly better. She was determined to walk a straight and narrow line in a neighborhood that was known for criminal activity. It was admirable what she was trying to do and that was take the first steps towards cleaning up that area with a successful bar that didn’t do shady business under the table. I liked her determination and spunk BUT she did have one big flaw: She didn’t take the danger she was in seriously. Once it was crystal clear that her life was on the line, Eve had to accept Matt’s presence in her bar for her own safety yet when he tried to provide her with every bit of knowledge he had so that she could defend herself if absolutely necessary, Eve balked at one method of defense. I mean she flat out said no to learning this skill. How the heck does that make sense or make her a smart character? I guess she skipped the line when they handed out survival instincts right?

Ugh, seriously who does that? If I’m in a life or death situation I’m going to want every scrap of information on how to defend myself cause I wanna live!!

As a couple I didn’t really feel Matt and Eve. I mean, it was made clear that they had the hots for each other but it didn’t really come through with their actions. There wasn’t any sexual tension, no teasing, no buildup to that first sex scene where it should have been explosive because the setting was just right for that kind of thing. Instead they were kind of… vanilla. And the sex scenes? They were kind of a blink and you’ll miss it type thing. No real sense of intimacy or attraction. I felt like they were just getting a basic function out of the way so that they can go about their day. Their love scenes were right up there with them brushing their teeth. No real kick to them and aside from work and sex, they really didn’t spend much time together developing their emotional connection.

Matt and Eve weren’t flying solo in Under the Surface, there were a few secondary characters that brought some kick into the story. There was Eve’s brother Caleb who has a serious hate for law enforcement (He’s a defense attorney) and Matt’s partner Joanna Sorenson. Of the two of them, I liked Joanna best. She’s a female detective who seems to be the voice of reason a lot of the time. She was calm, cool and collected but that just made me more curious as to what could shake that controlled demeanor she had.

The plot of Under the Surface wasn’t a bad one. I liked the setting of the story, a bar on the “bad” side of town can practically write its own villains and had the potential for some colorful characters. The pace was a problem though. I felt it moved too fast where it should have slowed down and it dragged on where it should have sped up. Some scenes I could have done without because it just had no purpose in the story. This is supposed to be a romantic suspense but it moved too slow for me. The villain didn’t strike until way later on in the book and there wasn’t any real buildup in anticipation for it either. I didn’t feel like the author put me on pins and needles waiting for the Big Bad to strike.

Final Verdict: Again, the plot wasn’t a bad idea, I liked the setting and the set up of the story but the characters fell flat or just plain got on my nerves with their choices and the pace was a bit too slow for a romantic suspense. Couple that with what I felt was little to no real connection between the hero and heroine and it just made Under the Surface a no go with me.

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