Series: Phoenix Rising #1
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Published by Kensington Brava on 1 March 2012
Reading Challenges: 2013 In Uniform Challenge
Dr Alyssa Foster is taken hostage by prisoner Teague Creek in a clear case of mistaken identity. He sees Alyssa as a bargaining chip he can use to get out of prison and get him the girl he adores, Kat. Getting away from the prison guards was the easy bit as they soon have Department of Defence officials, police and even Alyssa’s lawyer brother Mitch after them.
Alyssa may be strong willed and intelligent but she baits people holding weapons – not smart. Alyssa is working at the hospital when a prisoner is brought in with a fever. She’s initially attracted to him until she notices his Aryan Brotherhood tattoos and then there is the little matter of him kidnapping and assaulting her. It definitely put her obsession with getting a promotion into perspective. She tries a number of times to escape but Teague always catches her. When he finally walks away from her, she follows him and decides to champion his cause.
I’m afraid I wasn’t a big fan of Teague and the way he treated Alyssa. I get that he felt pressured and that ordering her around fed his desire to control his environment but constantly demeaning her was unnecessary. He knew that he had a tendency to burn up (thermokinesis) when he got stressed and yet he refused to remove the chain that was burning Alyssa’s throat. Sure he healed her up afterwards but that doesn’t excuse the initial assault. Part of me wondered whether he healed her because he genuinely cared or whether he did it because he didn’t want to deliver damaged goods. Kidnapping recalcitrant females and killing people in front of them is kind of par for the course with romantic suspense novels so I can’t fault him there.
Although Taz is not the protagonist, his attitude and language sets the tone for the novel. Swan clearly went for the shock factor with him as practically every word that came out of his mouth was racist or misogynistic. I was very uncomfortable reading the hate he spewed and it got to the point that I braced myself whenever I saw his name mentioned. I was also quite frustrated because he wasn’t necessary to the plot and there are a myriad of ways to depict a character as cruel and/or racist without using such a heavy handed approach. I’m assuming Taz was included to make the story appear gritty and Teague look good but it is setting the bar fairly low as 99% of the population would look like model citizens when compared with him.
There were some sections that I enjoyed but oddly enough they featured Mitch (Alyssa’s brother) rather than Teague or Alyssa whose romance felt Stockholm Syndrome-ish as the heroine couldn’t bear to leave the guy who had kidnapped and abused her. I was left with a series of questions. Apart from his good looks, what did Alyssa see in Teague? Is Teague viewing Alyssa as a “goddamned, exotic Barbie-doll, wet dream beauty” supposed to be sexy? I saw it as him lacking emotional depth. How did Teague get the magic ink in prison and how come no one noticed him reapplying it? Why did Luke change his attitude towards Teague in a matter of moments? What was the deal with the fire? Why was Teague framed? What was a box of personal information relating to Teague that just happened to give clarity into his relationship with his dead wife and his supposed crime doing at the cabin he and Alyssa crashed at? Is the deal with fish antibiotics really true?