Friday, January 3, 2020

Karen Rose - Into the Dark

Michael Rowland is not your typical teenager. Deaf from birth, he’s always looked out for his five-year-old brother, Joshua. When his stepfather comes after Joshua, Michael takes the child and runs. He’s determined to protect his brother at all costs, even if that means making himself vulnerable to a danger he can’t hear coming. And the danger intensifies when Michael witnesses a stranger kill his stepfather.
Desperate and afraid, the boys have nowhere else to go but to Joshua’s soccer coach, journalist and ex-Army ranger Diesel Kennedy. When Diesel sees that Michael is injured, he takes them to see Dr. Dani Novak—not only because she’s fluent in American Sign Language, but because he’s drawn to her and everything she stands for. She never refuses Diesel’s requests—because she, too, feels their connection—but she resists him for reasons she doesn’t want to confess.
When Dani and Diesel learn that Michael saw the face of his stepfather’s killer, they fear for his safety. But they quickly discover that it’s even worse than they feared: They may have a serial killer on their hands—and all signs point to Michael as the next target.

Comment: This was my last book of 2019. It's the 5th installment in the romantic suspense series the author has been writing for years and this story is fitted into the sub series set in Cincinnati but the connection to older books is sometimes visible in one or two details although not in this one. 
For those who like the author's style, it's just funnier to read things in order as the stories in the same city often overlap or continue some situations in the characters' personal lives.

In this story fans finally have the romance of Diesal and Dani. These two have been secondary characters that readers have rooted for and now it was time to get them together at last.
As expected, this occurs at the same time two little boys need help after the oldest one, who happens to be deaf, witnesses a murder. From the first time the boys are taken into protection, there are signs their lives have not been smooth and especially for dr Dani Novak, partially deaf herself, it's extremely important to find a way to help them. 
The killer also killed other people and when he discovers there's a witness, he will try everything to find out where the boy is  but with the help of their large group of friends, Dani and IT guy Diesel will finally unite efforts and love to be the best support for those boys...

The best feature of reading a long series or where often the same characters play a role is that we get to know them quite well, we start to create expectations about where their paths will lead and how their personalities might fit, or not, the choices the author makes for them.
For a while now readers have been aware Diesel and Dani would be a couple and it's quite a gift the author has thought of a plot to also showcase how they would finally overcome their doubts and admit what all their friends already suspected.

Removing the killer's actions, this could be quite a romance and with a strong cast of characters in the secondary role. However, this writer pens suspense and that wouldn't be easy to ignore, particularly since a lot of the "good guys" work in authority roles which are directly linked to the boys' protection, which means it's impossible to separate the romance from the suspense and this author does the job very well. 
I'm also glad the "voice" of this killer isn't as difficult to accept or go through as some others in the past have been; if I could change something, would be the amount of pages dedicated to the killer/villains' POV in her books.

The crime investigation and all the steps taken by the characters make sense, as usual, but it does strike me as too easy how some connections between clues or situations are made. I can understand this need to follow things quickly so the clues don't get lost and the bad guys are caught but well, things do happen a little too easily.
At the same time, the romance is also developing and if we get enough clues from other books on how the characters interacted, some stories are easier to accept as likely. This is what I felt happened here because we already knew Dani and Diesel were attracted to one another.

Their relationship is a strong element of the book because they need to provide stability too for the boys while they are being protected. I liked how things seemed to develop slowly between them, mostly because of Dani's fears. Readers of other books know why she is so cautious and why she protects herself by pretending she doesn't know Diesel likes her. Despite this and their conversation on the subject at a certain point, I still feel she caved in a little too quickly within the story's timeline. If only we could have seen, while the story develops, more scenes with them being attracted and fighting it - I think there was only one or two where that was thought by them - I'd be better convinced. 
I mean, I know they are going to be a couple but when things happen, what they say is romantic and sweet but their actions feel "staged" and the physical side of things was not as emotional as I imagined, considering how long it took them to be in the same page.

Despite this, I'm very happy these two are together, I liked the interactions they had with all the other known characters who matter in their lives, I liked how the book ended...really, the domestic and personal scenes between all the good guys is certainly the best feeling to think of when finishing another installment in the series and I can't wait to see it again in more books, even if in a different city.
Grade: 8/10

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