Grace A. Johnson
Review: Present Danger by Elizabeth Goddard
#1 This is a long review, so pull up a chair and grab a bowl of popcorn. You’ll be here awhile. #2 When I read a review, I want substantial information. So I will not skimp on the details. Which may mean some spoilers, so watch out.
Synopsis: When a local is found dead in the mountains, US Forest Service Special Agent Terra Connors joins forces with her ex-boyfriend former FBI agent Jack Tanner to find the killer.
Favorite Quote: “The direction your life takes can often come down to one decision, one moment in time.”
I’ll be honest with y’all: I hate romantic suspense.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I love romance and I love suspense. And what’s even better? The two of them together! However, I have the hardest time enjoying the genre romantic suspense. Nothing ever seems fleshed out or developed, so I never get into the story, the characters, the romance, or the suspense. And if I can’t get into it, odds are I won’t finish it.
So, yes, I was taking a risk on Present Danger. I wanted to give romantic suspense yet another chance—plus, the cover looks awesome. In the end, I made it to Chapter 46 (out of 65), before I knew I couldn’t force myself to read any more and I needed to get this review done.
Since I never write a negative review (bet you didn’t see that coming, but it’s true), I’ll try to keep my pros and cons concise and clear so you can understand just why I couldn’t finish this book.
1. Goddard knows her stuff. This is kind of a pro and a con, but since I can appreciate an author who knows what she’s writing about, I’ll label it a pro. If you have to write about highfalutin government agents, it pays to know all of the details, names, processes, and information. Plus, she would give a quick and subtle definition of what those things were—like when she used an abbreviation or mentioned a certain position—for us dummies.
2. The writing was clear and focused. In writing a suspense, thriller, or other high-stakes sort of book, having clear prose is imperative. As much as I like it when authors wax poetic, I also understand when clean, straightforward writing is necessary to envision and comprehend.
3. She tried. I gotta give her points for trying. She gave her characters backstories, sob stories, and a few moments of into-the-eye-gazing (you know, those moments where time stands still and the hero and heroine just look at each other...and look…and look...until your eyeballs fall out). I do think that the whole joining-forces-with-the-ex-flame/partner trope is way overused in romantic suspense, but Goddard did have the good sense to leave some things in the dark (like the reasons for Jack’s leaving, both Terra and the FBI) for a while to increase the tension.
1. There wasn’t enough development. You know where every single romantic suspense—or suspense in general, actually—fails?
Immediately, the story jumps into a plane crash and a murder and an investigation—and not only is all of that within the first three chapters difficult to follow, but I missed out on getting to know Terra and Jack.
So, suffice it to say that when I don’t know or feel anything at all for the main characters, I really don’t care if someone is stalking them or trying to kill them. Also, I have no idea what plays into their relationship because I don’t know them or their personalities. Look, y’all, personality types are important in suspense too, okay? A simple MBTI test can make your character 4-D and your story so much easier to write, trust me.
2. Everything was way over my head. Like I said, this is both a pro and a con. I mean, I can appreciate a knowledgeable, informative author—but sometimes I read for enjoyment or an escape and not to learn, so when 90% of the dialogue is focused on nerdy police stuff I don’t understand, I find my mind wandering tremendously. This is why I would love to read a suspense that’s about average Joes, people with regular jobs and lives who (1) have a legitimate reason to be chased by someone that has nothing to do with buried treasure, (2) don’t know any of this smarty-pants investigative stuff, and (3) I can connect with.
3. There was no emotion. Yes, straightforward prose can keep an even pace, which is necessary in a suspense novel. But, also yes, when your writing is devoid of emotion, the prose seems staid and stilted and the story uninteresting. Considering people are watching people die and are being chased and all, I’d like to see a little more emotion. Honestly, I guess that goes hand-in-hand with my second point. Detectives, agents, and officers are all trained not to have emotions—so to translate an emotional character into a story, you’ve got to have one that’s not a detective or FBI agent.
All in all, I’m glad I gave it a try, and I’ll continue to give romantic suspense a chance, because I know the genre has potential. However, Present Danger didn’t fully harness all of that potential, which is why I couldn’t make it through.
That being said, regulars of the romantic suspense genre who don’t have the same pet peeves I do will probably find this story interesting! It’s definitely very informative and different, and I know there are plenty of readers who have enjoyed it. In fact, my sister is giving it a go now, so I may be back with an update, depending on what she thinks of it!
Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
With over one million books sold, Elizabeth Goddard is the USA Today and Publisher's Weekly bestselling, award-winning author of over fifty romance novels and counting, including the romantic mystery, THE CAMERA NEVER LIES--a 2011 Carol Award winner. Four of her six Mountain Cove books have been contest finalists. Buried, Backfire and Deception are finalists in the Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense, and Submerged is a Carol Award finalist. A 7th generation Texan, Elizabeth graduated from North Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and worked in high-level software sales for several years before retiring to home school her children and fulfill her dreams of writing full-time.