I generally really enjoy Karen Robards’ novels, so I was excited to get her latest, Darkness (2016), when it finally came in at the library. I can usually count on her for some romantic adventure and excitement. Her books can be a little too violent sometimes, but I’ll overlook it if she sucks me into the story. Unfortunately, this one just didn’t do it for me. I did listen to it on CD instead of reading it, but I’m pretty sure reading it wouldn’t have made too much of a difference in this case.
Gina is a professor and bird biologist on a research trip on the remote island of Attu with a small group of like-minded people. While speeding along the ocean in a motor boat, intent on tracking a bird before the approaching storm, a small plane crashes directly over her head and into the sea. Gina follows the boat and pulls a wounded man out of the ocean. The two barely make it back to shore before the worst of the storm hits. With the rest of her team back at the base or spread out on the island, Gina finds herself isolated and alone with this stranger.
Cal used to be military and is now something of a private contractor, delivering an Edward Snowden-like character and some valuable information back to the United States. When he is betrayed and the plane is shot down, he is the only survivor. Cal knows they will come after him and is deeply suspicious of Gina, even though she just risked her life to save his and is obviously exactly what she says she is. The rest of the book involves Cal and Gina running around the island, trying to stay safe from the murderers on their tail.
I had a number of problems with this book. First, the plot felt convoluted, unfocused, and unfinished. We had the Edward Snowden character, who promptly disappears, the betrayal by Cal’s friend, a number of other shady bad guys, Gina’s traumatized back story, and Cal’s relationship with his father. Each strand could have been interesting, but they all felt unfinished. Secondly, the descriptions of camping in the snow felt like they were written by someone who has never been in a tent. It was jarring and kept taking me out of the moment. Tents do not muffle the noise of a storm, the noise is amplified by all the nylon billowing about. You can’t sleep in a cold tent without a sleeping pad, you will lose all your heat through the ground. I can’t imagine anyone hiking and camping in the middle of a snowstorm in jeans. Also, it seemed to take one hundred pages for Gina to get Cal out of the water. He would have died of hypothermia–even without the gun shot. I know our heroes are supposed to be larger than life, but I couldn’t buy it.
However, my main problem falls once again to the relationship between Cal and Gina. They are alone on a snowy island, being hunted by a band of heartless murderers, and all they do is bicker. The first time Cal kisses Gina, she’s mad at him because he’s just patted her down for weapons against her will. He tells her he kissed her to thank her for saving his life. Ugh. I don’t even remember much of the rest of the love scenes. It didn’t help that sweaty snowsuits are the least sexy of clothes. Finally, near the end, the two actually work together, but by then I’d already lost interest in them and the book.
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