on August 29, 2017
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Also in this series: Protected By Love
A Montana man always protects the woman he loves
He discovered her during a Montana blizzard, freezing cold, impossibly vulnerable, a little boy by her side. Undercover DEA Agent Beck “Trigger” Cooke is astonished to recognize Ashley Swan—award-winning actress, famous beauty—and missing for over a year. To keep her and the child hidden from a sadistic madman, he secrets the pair away to his isolated home.
No longer a prisoner, and protected at Hope Ranch, Ashley recovers and learns the tall, tempting federal agent may have a dark past, but it hasn’t destroyed his sense of honor.
As they shed past roles and find common ground, Ashley and Trigger can’t help but fall slowly, carefully, in love. But danger still lurks outside the boundaries of Hope Ranch, for until her crazed captor is brought to justice, and Trigger’s undercover past is laid to rest, none of them will ever be truly safe…
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
Escape to You offers interesting characters and an absorbing, action-packed story, but more than a little violence and grittiness. It’s not a romance for the faint of heart.
Both Trigger (Beck) and Ashley are badly damaged, Trigger by the years he has spent undercover as a DEA agent in the very ugly world of drug gangs, and Ashley from a year of captivity and torture. Both their backstories are harrowing, and the worlds they have escaped haven’t let go of them yet. Ryan doesn’t flinch from the violence and ugliness both characters have experienced (and in Trigger’s case, participated in), nor from the violence that pursues them as the book progresses. As in the case of the prequel, Protected By Love, the violence pushed the edge of what I’m comfortable reading, and even a little beyond. In one or two scenes (notably one in a prison, toward the end of the book), I felt that that it crossed the line into gratuitous, and could have been left to the reader’s imagination instead.
What kept me reading and made the book work for me are the characters, and specifically the growth and healing both Beck and Ashley experience. That healing comes about in part through one another, though not in a codependent or unhealthy way. Instead, they each support the other and remind the other of who they truly are, and of their inner strength. Ryan does particularly well with Trigger’s transition back to Beck, the man he was before his undercover years. Their development and growth is well-written and gives the book a hopeful, positive element that stands in stark opposition to the violence and ugliness the characters live through.
And then there is Adam, the absolutely darling little boy with whom Ashley escapes. While I suspect it would take a lot longer for a child to bounce back from the traumas Adam has experienced, I still found him adorable, and his relationship with both Ashley and Beck is heartwarming. I guarantee he will steal your heart.
The resolution of Ashley’s, Beck’s, and Adam’s problems feels. . . not easy but a little contrived, a little too “Hollywood” to be real. Still, any other ending would have failed to satisfy, so I’ll take it!
There are subtle setups for at least two other novels in the series, one involving Beck’s sister and the other involving a fellow DEA agent. I know many readers will be eager for those stories. As for me, I’d love to see more of these characters, but given the gritty intensity of the prequel and first book, I’ll have to play it by ear. The books are good—gripping and well-paced, with characters that stick with you—but as I’ve mentioned here before, I sometimes have trouble with the darker elements of suspense and thrillers, and this series could easily cross that line for me. Other readers will probably enjoy the grittier, more suspenseful aspects of the series.
Objective rating: 4 stars. Personal rating: 3 stars (due to violence, etc.)
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Clean Sweep ARC Challenge 2017