Monday, June 6, 2016

ARC Review: Return to Zero (Shatterproof Bond, #2) by Isobel Starling

The thrilling sequel to "As You Wish" and "Illuminate the Shadows".

Pulled into a world of secrets and lies for the man he loves, Declan Ramsay’s life has changed immeasurably in the eight months since meeting, and falling for his boss’s son, Sam Aiken. Declan journey of personal discovery is about to take a darker turn, and for Sam, the world becomes more treacherous than he could ever have imagined.

Two agents are missing -- presumed dead, while on a reconnaissance mission at an outdoor adventure centre in the Scottish Highlands. Sir James Aiken sends his son and Declan to follow the trail, and discover the fate of the agents.

As the mission offers his first chance to use the skills he learned on the MI6 training course in Morocco, Declan is keen to get started. However, Sir James sees to it that the seeds of doubt and discord have been sewn between the couple, as they begin their mission.

The journey to their Highland location, and the discoveries they make when they reach the G’wan Adventures centre, prove that Sir James Aiken has been less than honest with his son. Events in the Highlands force Sam and Declan to face their greatest fears, and understand what they both really want from life -- and from each other.

Jewel's rating:

While I did enjoy the continuation of Declan's and Sam's story in Return To Zero, I didn't enjoy it quite as much as Illuminate the Shadows. I liked it, and I liked that the story actually went somewhere and resolved things, but the journey there just didn't quite catch me like I hoped it would. As with Illuminate the Shadows, suspend your urge to disbelieve as soon as you start reading. This isn't anywhere close to a realistic spy novel, and I don't think it's meant to be.

In Return To Zero we see Sam and Declan have their first real fight (and we can thank Sam's father, once again, for coming between them). And Declan takes off, without a word. Bad form, Declan. It's bad enough you jumped to all kinds of conclusions, but you leave without a word? Is this how you handle all difficult situations? It doesn't exactly instill confidence in me regarding the longevity of your relationship with Sam.

Sam still alternates between a fun-loving boyfriend and a self sufficient secret agent so smoothly, you have to wonder if his entire existence is a lie. But he says that the only person that seen the "real" him is Declan, so I choose to go with that.

They both end up on a mission to find out what happened to two agents who disappeared while investigating a corporate retreat and that whole adventure gets intertwined with whoever is behind the red paracord in the previous book. In fact, we get two questions answered in Return To Zero -- who is behind the red paracord? And, what does that silver key go to?

The story was, in many ways, fun and entertaining, but there were a couple things that just annoyed me, and they, unfortunately, took a bit away from my overall enjoyment of the story.

Declan, even though he is a full fledged agent, now, periodically still has horrible self esteem issues and that got a bit tiring. It took so little for him to go into 'feel sorry for Declan' mode, that I kind of wanted to shake him. Also, he had a "cutsie" name for just about everything, and that really annoyed me. When, during intimacy, a character refers to a blowjob as a "blowie" or makes a comment like "hide the sausie", I find it too detracting and it makes me not want to take them seriously. Especially in matters of intimacy, it just makes me roll my eyes.

And while I thought this was going to be the last installment of Sam's and Declan's story, I was wrong! Their story will continue in Powder Burns, so that is something to look forward to.


ARC of Return to Zero was generously provided by the author, in exchange for an honest review.

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