Riding the Storm, by Sydney Croft

3 Apr
Reader beware: I got this book as a prize at a blogger giveaway (The Good, The Bad and the Unread, to be precise–and where this review was originally published)

Riding the Storm, by Syndey Croft

This is the first novel in a series about ACRO, the Agency for Covert Rare Operatives. The series is a mix of erotic romance and adventure and suspense in an alternative universe where the paranormal is not as rare as we might think.

The back cover blurb:

A storm’s rage. A woman’s desire. A man with the power to set them both free.

He can summon lightning at will. Emerge unscathed from the center of a tornado. Strip a woman down to her barest defenses through the force of his sexuality. He’s gorgeous, dangerous, and the target of parameteorologist Haley Holmes’ latest mission. Haley has been dispatched to the Louisiana bayous to investigate the phenomenon known as Remy Begnaud—a man with a gift he never wanted: the ability to control a storm’s fury. But even a woman trained in bizarre weather phenomena has no defense against the electrifying power of the ex-Navy SEAL… a power his enemies would kill to control.

With her agency monitoring their every move, Haley’s job is to seduce Remy, gain his trust—and help him harness his extraordinary gift. But who will protect her from this voracious lover who’s introducing her to a new world of erotic thrills—a man who grows increasingly insatiable with each new weather event? Haley knows a big storm is approaching—and with it will come unexpected delights. But so, too, will the storm unleash her greatest fears: an enemy bent on destroying Remy. And her worst fear of all—falling in love with this magnificent man, then having to betray him.

There are a number of intriguing secondary characters, and the world created is complex and compelling, full of possibilities. ACRO seems to be entirely populated by interesting and quirky people whose abilities range from the traditionally psychic (telepaths, telekinesis, foresight, ability to see/hear ghosts) to entirely original gifts.

One such gift is the ability to control the weather.

Haley is a scientist first and foremost, more at home with unexplained weather phenomena than with people in general. She carries some heavy emotional baggage stemming mostly from a frightening episode from her childhood; as a consequence, Haley avoids deep romantic entanglements. She’s definitely not prepared, either professionally or personally, to deal with Remy. The emotional and physical reactions he evokes in her are completely out of her experience.

And yet, she’s supposed to, first, find out whether the rumors about his power over the weather are true, and second, to convince him to trust her and the agency she represents.

For his part, Remy has spent all of his life suffering from stigma caused both by the circumstances of his birth, and by what he considers his curse. He can’t have a romantic relationship, and even friendships haven’t outlasted the bizarre effects his mere presence has on the weather. He’s even forced to leave the SEAL teams because of what Haley refers to as “his gift.”

Things come to a head when the bad guys come calling, ready to recruit Remy by fair means or foul, and ACRO sends its own team of good (and gifted) operatives to save the day.

While I liked Remy and Haley, and was quite intrigued by the other ACRO operatives introduced in this novel, as well as by the great potential for this universe, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped I would. For starters, even if I hadn’t known it beforehand, it would have been clear for me that this is the first installment in a series. Too many characters are introduced, with one secondary plot taking up about as much space as Haley and Remy’s does, and several major conflicts are left unresolved. I expect that at least some of these will be addressed in the next installment, Unleashing the Storm.

I found the abundance and… lets say, speed, of the sex actually distracting to the main plot — but I believe that’s more a personal issue than anything to do with the writing itself. For example, Haley and Remy were having sex enthusiastically, for hours, starting literally minutes after meeting each other, and neither mentions protection of any kind to the other until the following afternoon. My brain kept firing alarm bulletins the entire time I read the chapters up to that. And when they do have that little conversation, it’s basically reduced to Haley saying, “I’m on the pill and I’m healthy” — which left me wondering about Remy. What can I say? Something about STDs won’t let me suspend my disbelief when the two people involved are human.

Finally, I found some of the plot points too shaky once the sex is, metaphorically, taken out. The bad guys are, of course, not Americans (e.g. is there anything more stereotypical than a Russian operative with an accent and named Oksana?), and they are sooooo bad they are almost caricatures. There was a certain inconsistency in the description of some of the gifts shown during the novel, which made it harder for me to suspend my disbelief. Also, the ambiguity of some scenes irritated me more than it intrigued me.

This one gets 6.5 out of 10 from me.

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