I’m a huge fan of Ms. Walker’s work, especially her romantic suspense novels, but when I got this book I did it under the wrong impression. I don’t know why, but I thought this was one of her romantic suspense stories with a bit of a paranormal touch. I think I was confusing the book with The Departed, her January release which was the book I was eagerly anticipating (and still am), so when I realized that this wasn’t it, I was a bit disappointed. The disappointment lasted about two seconds, the time it took for If You Hear Her to captivate me and make me forget that this wasn’t the book I originally wanted to read.
The story goes something like this: Lena Riddle is a blind chef. One night she hears a woman screaming but when she calls the police they find nothing and tell her that she must have imagined it. Thankfully there’s Ezra King, the hunky detective with the tragic past. On leave from the state police, he shares an explosive chemistry with Lena and believes what she’s saying. He’s afraid that Lena’s in danger because regardless of what the police thinks, she’s a witness, so now they are working together trying to figure out what's going on, but also fighting the attraction they feel for each other. Needless to say, the attraction wins.
I know I’m making it sound like a very simple, straightforward story, and in a sense it is, but there’s much more going on, including a set of secondary characters just as engaging as the main couple and a murderer that’s one of the most evil characters I have read this year. But the most important of all is that this is truly a suspenseful read, one with a surprise ending that left me thinking: "what am I supposed to do now?"
Lena was a fantastic heroine and perfect for a romantic suspense novel. She is strong, smart and self-assured but also vulnerable. I think Ms. Walker does a fantastic job portraying her disability, the fact that she was blind never felt like a gimmick just to create a sense of constant danger to the heroine. In fact, I almost forgot that she was blind. I think it was an accurate portrayal of a blind person and how sometimes the obstacles don’t come from the disability itself but from how other people perceive and treat that person. Lena wasn’t helpless at all but the people surrounding her treat her in a certain way because to them she was helpless. That’s why I also loved Ezra, he never sees her as a weak person and when he worries, is because he loves her, not because he thinks she needs some extra help.
Ezra wasn’t your typical overbearing and possessive alpha male. He is protective of Lena, he feels strongly about her, but he also lets her be. We get to see a glimpse of vulnerability when we find out what happened to him and why he had to take a leave from his job. I admit that there’s that almost magical, lust at first sight thing that is ever present in romance novels, and for a change I would love to see the relationship develop more slowly, but the chemistry between them was just explosive.
The sex scenes deserve a mention because they were scorching hot. I think they were one of the hottest scenes I have read all year, not because how graphic they were, but because the connection between the characters was amazing and very strong, so when they get to the sex you can feel the passion. Also, Ms. Walker knows how to write a sex scene. This isn’t an erotic novel by any means, but I was this close to giving this one a McBurning. That first sex scene between Lena and Ezra is going to my Top 10 list of Best Sex Scenes Ever.
There’s also a strong cast of secondary characters that are likeable and intriguing. You know some of these characters are being set to be the leads of the books to come, but there’s also the mystery. I was impatient to get to the end to find out who the bad guy was, and then I got to the final twist. I don’t want to give away anything because I was so surprised by the direction the book took, and by what the author is doing with the series, that I if I tell you I’ll ruin it. Once you read it, you will know what I mean when I say that Ms. Walker is an evil mastermind. This is a book meant to be discussed and talked about, and the wait for the next installment feels like torture.
There were a couple of things that bothered me. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of characters in the book, and at some point in the story we get their POVs. Some of those POVs made sense, but some of them didn’t. I understand that this is a "who done it", and that all the secondary characters are suspects, so having their POVs might give us some clues or point us to the right -or wrong- direction depending on what the author wants us to believe, but it was confusing and a bit annoying. Maybe this will make more sense in the next book. The other problem I had was with the violence. This wasn’t the most violent book I've read and I’m not usually bothered by this, but what happens to the victims in this book was too much, I started to skim thought those parts because it made me feel uncomfortable. The descriptions aren't graphic or gory, but they are disturbing and very sad.
Despite that, I had a great time reading this book. The romance and the suspense are perfectly well-balanced, I was kept on the edge of my seat until the end, the heroine doesn’t have one single TSTL moment and the ending was unexpected and original. This book doesn’t follow the usual recipe for romantic suspense, and once you’re done with it, all you want to do is read the next one. This is a highly recommended and addictive new series, by a highly addictive author.
Review by Brie
A CRY IN THE WOODS
The scream Lena Riddle hears in the woods behind her house is enough to curdle her blood—she has no doubt that a woman is in real danger. Unfortunately, with no physical evidence, the local law officers in small-town Ash, Kentucky, dismiss her claim. But Lena knows what she heard—and it leaves her filled with fear and frustration.
Ezra King is on leave from the state police, but he can’t escape the guilty memories that haunt his dreams. When he sees Lena, he is immediately drawn to her. He aches to touch her—to be touched by her—but is he too burdened by his tragic past to get close? When Ezra hears her story of an unknown woman’s screams, his instincts tell him that Lena’s life is also at risk—and his desire to protect her is as fierce as his need to possess her.
Ballantine Books; October 25, 2011