Nothing to Fear, by Karen Rose

>> Wednesday, November 04, 2009

TITLE: Nothing to Fear
AUTHOR: Karen Rose

PAGES: 434

SETTING: Contemporary Chicago
TYPE: Romantic suspense
SERIES: All of Karen Rose's books are interrelated, to some degree. Specific details here.

REASON FOR READING: Continuing to explore Rose's backlist

As director of an inner-city woman's shelter, Dana Dupinsky safeguards many secrets. Some are new identities; some are new addresses; and some are even hidden truths about herself. Passionately dedicated to Hanover House and the women she protects, Dana has always been reluctant to look for love. But now, just as a case puts her and a child in mortal danger, it seems that love has come looking for her.

Security expert Ethan Buchanan learned to stalk men in the Afghan desert. Now he vows to track down the ruthless woman who kidnapped his godson-and falling for Dana is not in the plan. Yet her very presence seems to chase away the ghosts that haunt him, and her skillful evasion of personal questions raises his hunting instincts. For there's a deadly new secret at Hanover House. A brutal killer is weaving a web of revenge with a stolen boy at its center. And Dana is the next victim on the list...
Nothing To Fear isn't a whodunnit. We know who the villain is from the very beginning. Sue Conway is out of jail and bent on revenge against those she believes put her there. She has a plan, a very detailed one, and the first step is kidnapping a deaf 12-year-old child. She needs a place to lie low, and her mind turns to a place she was told about by another prisoner: a refuge for battered women.

Dana Dupinsky runs the shelter in question, Hanover House, and at first, this new woman who comes in with her son seems just like any other. Before long, though, Dana starts sensing something wrong, but tells herself she's imagining things.

At the same time, Dana's distracted by other things, like her developing relationship with Ethan Buchanan. Ethan's godson (a deaf 12-year-old, does that ring any bells?) was recently kidnapped, and he's in Chicago tracking the kidnapper. His meeting with Dana is completely coincidental, as far as he's concerned, so how long until he suspects that Dana's input would be essential to find what he's looking for?

The suspense in Nothing to Fear was extremely effective. It's based on us readers knowing exactly what's going on and having to watch the protagonists blundering along blind, putting themselves at risk, because they don't know. Dana thinks there's something not quite right with Sue (or rather, "Jane Smith"), but her first instinct is to deny it, to think she couldn't possibly feel that about this person. She's clearly a victim of domestic violence, and obviously needs support and reassurance, not suspicion, and Dana should be more sensitive, etc. And all the while we know she's right, and feel like reaching into the book and shaking her, telling her to trust her instincts. This reminded me of a very, very scary movie I watched recently, called The Orphan (which gave me nightmares for weeks). Both Sue and the villain in The Orphan were masters of manipulation, making anyone who suspected them feel guilty for doing so.

And Sue is terrifying. Just terrifying. It's not just that she's evil and ruthless, there's an element of pettiness in her actions that makes her even scarier. I thought in the second half of the book things were a bit over-the-top with her... I mean, she's cunning and ruthless, but she would have had to be superwoman for some of the things she was able to pull and the ways the bodies started piling up (the extent to which they did was also a bit much). But still, an intriguing villain which made the suspense side of this romantic suspense very successful.

The romance was all right, but I didn't love it. I think my main problem with it was that I found it hard to believe that Ethan would spend so much time having meaningful quiet moments with a new love interest when he was supposed to be frantically searching for a little boy who's in danger of being killed by his evil kidnapper. It did mean I believed in their love by the end of the book, but still.



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