On a rainy June afternoon, I was more than ready for a romantic suspense novel, so I sifted through my soon-to-be-published books from NetGalley and thought, “Huh, this one looks okay. I’ll try it.”
The third in Adams’ Adrenaline Highs series, I have determined to read the first two books ASAP because I need to discover if she can do such a great job balancing romance and suspense in her previous stories. Luckily, it is no problem for a reader to read this book out of order (always the mark of a great writer) since we have a sense of the other characters, but don’t have to suffer an awkward info dump to be brought up to speed.
Ashley Bristol is trying to remain cheerful in her recovery. After having a psychopath put her in a coma for two months, she is, months later, just now getting her life back on track. Yes, she still has to take seizure medication and she’s prone to migraines, but her best friend Ellie is helping her and renovating the beautiful beach home in Malibu she bought with the settlement is a terrific distraction. Until a freak accident leaves her almost fully blind from wet macular degeneration, that is.
With a sense of humor the long-suffering biblical Job wishes he had, Ashley takes on this next new challenge, learning how to function as a blind person (she can see the occasional shape and has some peripheral vision but otherwise sees nothing). Ellie needs to get back to her husband, so the two of them start interviewing candidates for a live-in companion, one that can teach Ashley to be more independent. When she finds the perfect person (and a boxer/pit bull stray) all in one day, she’s ecstatic. She begins to learn how to shift for herself as much as possible and is merely curious when someone moves into the previously empty multi-million dollar beach home that shares the yard and the oceanfront.
Seger Hughes has been leading the sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll lifestyle for way too long, a reality brought home when he wakes up with a barely legal girl in his bed and one hell of a hangover. He’s disgusted with what the years and his success have brought him, and finishes up his tour, determined to make some serious changes. He stops having sex with strangers, cuts out booze and begins eating well and working out, so much so that when he pulls into the beachfront home he bought using his real name, Mel Summers, no one would recognize his thin, blond former self for the muscular guy sporting a natural brown buzz cut.
He’s still worried about discovery, however, and super pissed to find out that the guest house he thought was part of his real estate purchase belongs to someone else. When he discovers its owned by a blind woman and her classical-music loving companion, he breathes a sigh of relief and vows to keep his distance. But it’s a vow that’s easy to break when there’s an enthusiastic dog and a friendly blond woman in the mix.
What floored me about this book was how Dee Adams manages to show Mel’s resurrection. With the lifestyle he had been living, a big part of him had essentially died. Through the unconditional acceptance and friendship of Ashley and her dog, Roamer, he begins to return to life. After hearing about Mel’s crappy childhood and quick path to success, you begin to get a sense of the profound loneliness he’s experienced and how this probably contributed to some of the self-destructive choices he’s made.
In a way, he resurrects a part of Ashley, too. She’s lonely with Ellie back in Indiana with her husband, but she’s exactly the friend everyone would want to have and her relentless warmth is like a fresh rain on parched earth for Mel. Yes, you don’t like him lying about who he is, but other than that, he tells her the truth in every other aspect of his life, even sharing personal details he never told anyone before. Their friendship very naturally becomes something much more to both of them, and I have to say that in the thousands of books I’ve read (romance or otherwise) I’ve never read a more well-written friendship unfold on a page than this one.
But this is romantic suspense and Dee Adams doesn’t leave us high and dry in that arena. Ashley obviously attracts psychopaths like ants at a picnic, although this one, in this case, is focused on Mel/Seger. A stalker for literally years (yikes) Paula sees the blind woman and her companion living next door as exactly what she needs to get close to the man she’s been obsessed with since middle school (yes, I said middle school). Her behavior is nothing short of chilling and manipulative even before she goes full-throttle crazypants at the end of the book. *shiver*
Their romantic and sexual feelings for each other highlighted by the adrenaline, when Mel and Ashley get together it’s not only caring and giving but pretty smoking hot as well. There is such joy in their lovemaking that the rush of emotion provides a strong contrast to the ever-present menace of our stalker. When the story finally cames to its resolution, I had such an attack of the feel good fuzzies that I walked around for a couple of hours smiling. (The song Mel writes for Ashley is so beautiful!)
I’m impressed by new author Dee J. Adams’ burgeoning platform as well. Her website and blog have lots of information (love her tagline “Ordinary People. Extraordinary Danger.”) and she is active on Facebook and Twitter with a decent Goodreads page (it would be better if she added her Facebook and Twitter accounts right on there, as well as on the front page of her website, so readers wouldn’t have to go to the blog).
Full disclosure. This book doesn’t come out until July 23rd (frustrating, I know) but I figured an interested reader might need a few weeks to read the first two in the series and be totally primed for Dangerously Close. Ashely and Mel won’t disappoint, I promise!