by S.T. Young
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Publication Date: February 26, 2018
Reading Challenges: 2018 Romance Roundabout Challenge, Title Hunt Quarterly Challenge: January - March 2018
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
A taut psychological thriller from S.T. Young…
Infamous for infiltration and becoming her undercover identities, Nina Hernandez disappeared without a trace. Three years later, Naval Intelligence agent Rory O’Donnell finds her in a tortuous mental hospital. He's unsure if it's really Nina, or if she's undercover and faking it. Either way, he's pretty sure something sinister is going on...
Rory springs Nina, and together they elude their determined pursuers. He needs to get her to safety...all while keeping his hands off the beautiful, mysterious young woman. As he works to convince her to trust him and share her darkest secrets, he wonders if he can trust her not to betray his...
Between her mercurial changes, sexy come-ons, and her exasperating independence, a protection assignment has never been so hard. On a dangerous trek across the country as they tumble from one danger into the next, Rory finds that resisting Nina might just be his toughest task yet.
Definite spoiler warning for this review! First off, I need to get this off my chest. I don’t think the title fits this book at all. I wouldn’t describe Nina as a girl, and while I think I get where the title is coming from, it doesn’t accurately describe what a kickass suspenseful joyride this book is.
“’Well, if you insist.’ She pouted, then perked up. ‘But we can hurt them a little, though.’
The scary part was, Rory didn’t think she was joking. ‘Lena!’ he warned, throwing her a censuring look. Curbing her violent tendencies was like working at a daycare center—he couldn’t let his attention slip for even a second.”
Nina is, first and foremost, a survivor. Against almost unimaginable odds, she’s survived cult indoctrination, multiple years as an assassin, and torture designed to break her. While she’s been indelibly formed by others’ actions against her, she is still her own person. Or, well, maybe, people, by the time Rory finds her. Rory is incredibly honorable and driven by his own past, which Nina, unbeknownst to her, is tied up in. He feels a desperate need to protect Nina, from others and from herself. Due to the affects of her trauma, Nina’s personality has split. She insists that Nina is gone, and in her place is four alters, personalities she’d previously developed for her undercover missions – Octavia (the motherly, caretaking nutritionist), Thyra (the stripper), Joey (the “fixer”), and Lena (best described as bloodthirsty). The POV alternates between Rory and Nina. Nina’s POV was especially trippy, since it could be from any one of her alters, and at times the alters disagreed with each other (especially Lena) in terms of what their plans should be. Rory suspects that Nina isn’t truly gone – he himself has talked to an alter he calls Nobody who he suspects is the original Nina. As they continue to flee the person responsible for Nina’s torture, she slowly starts to trust him, and what starts out as a purposeful seduction turns into something that neither is prepared for. Is Nina actually interested in him, or is she just using him to draw out their enemy?
“’You’re not crazy,’ he told her softly, knowing he should step away.
He didn’t. It felt too right being close to her. But he didn’t take her in his arms, either.
She pulled a face. With a sigh of regret, she adjusted her robe and walked over to their bags. That look of regret was what made him relent some in his attempt to keep a professional distance. He had no choice. He couldn’t stand that hint of sadness she tried so hard to hide.
‘And even if you were,’ he added softly, ‘your brand of crazy wouldn’t be a bad thing to catch.’”
There’s no sex in the book, though there’s plenty of sexual tension. While I’d normally prefer more sexual content, Nina’s mental health would have brought up some thorny issues with consent, so I’m pleased that decision was made. I don’t know anything about dissociative identify disorder (what was once commonly referred to as multiple personality disorder), and a quick browse of Wikipedia reveals that it’s highly controversial. With that being said, I love how Rory reacts to it – when Nina refers to herself as broken due to the alters, he disagrees, and points out that they’re a coping mechanism for dealing with everything she’s been through. As someone who has a completely different form of mental illness, I still found that very touching.
What I loved about this book was how fast paced it was. There’s lots of action, lots of twisty bits. From the beginning, we know Nina’s alters are plotting something, but as the book goes on, it becomes clear that all the alters may not be on the same page… in terms of how far they’re willing to go to punish who’s responsible and how much risk they’ll put Rory in. Yes, a lot of the plot is eyebrow-raisingly far-fetched, but I was enjoying it so much I didn’t care. This read a bit like a later book in a series, but as far as I can tell, there’s no previous books. It does feel like you’re dropped in media res, with a lot of background that takes some time to come out and organize itself into a coherent picture. The ending definitely leaves an opening for a series, so I’m hoping for another book.
Overall, this was an gleefully action-packed, suspenseful joyride of a book. Recommended to anyone who enjoys romantic suspense!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: