No Control, by Shannon K. Butcher

19 Jul

No Control, by Shannon K. Butcher

No Control is Ms Butcher’s second novel, following her debut with No Regrets. This is my first contact with Ms Butcher’s writing, thanks to SuperLibrarian Wendy. The novel is marketed as romantic suspense. A warning, though: Lana suffers from PTSD and some of her nightmares include short descriptions of the abuse she suffered after being captured by terrorists.

No hiding

Lana Hancock knows all about danger—and betrayal. Eighteen months ago, she was captured by a terrorist group known as the Swarm while one of its members, a rugged man with sinfully dark eyes, did nothing to help her. Now when she’s freed and desperate to put it all behind her, the unthinkable happens. The Swarm is targeting Lana once again and the man who stood silently by has become her protector. But can she trust him?

No escape

Delta Force operative Caleb Stone will never forget the hatred shining in Lana’s eyes. Ordered to take down the Swarm by infiltrating its ranks, Caleb couldn’t blow his cover to save her—no matter how much it haunted him. Now, gifted with a second chance, he vows to move heaven and earth to protect her… and fulfill her every desire. But the Swarm has reorganized. It’s more powerful than ever and hell-bent on revenge…

The blurb is, as usual, meh. So here’s a brief summary:

Lana goes to Armenia as a volunteer of some sort. She and the rest of her group are captured, tortured and killed one by one, until she’s the only one left. At the last possible second, she’s saved. A year and a half later, she’s struggling with nightmares, memories and guilt—and not just survivor’s guilt. Lana has a secret, and while she’s convinced that by keeping it she’s also protecting her family, it is also damaging her already fractured psyche.

Caleb’s boss is convinced that Lana knows more than what she told them after her rescue. After her name starts being mentioned in less than desirable channels, he assigns Caleb to protect Lana from the bad guys and to get the information out of her, by whatever means necessary.

The bad guys are indeed hot on Lana’s trail—although things are more complicated on that front than what meets the eye. There is, in fact, a neat little twist there that I enjoyed.

The pacing is such that you sit down to ‘start’ the novel, and the next time you look up you’ve read a hundred pages, and you really would rather get back to it instead of heading downstairs to check on the poor dogs who “really need to go outside now, mom, or sooner if at all possible”.

Which is a really good thing, because otherwise one stops to think about why the characters do what they do, and then the enjoyment comes to a screeching halt. Too much stupidity distributed between far too few characters.

I like Caleb the most; he’s not convinced he knows everything about everything. The only thing that bothers me a little is that Ms Butcher tells us more than she shows us who he is. Other than a couple of lines in the prologue, when we meet him we are told of his training, we are told of his scars, etc. It isn’t until much later in the book that we finally see him in action a little.

I understand that Lana’s fear is the main plot motivator—and it definitely makes sense for a while. Past a certain point, though, it enters TSTL territory—and just keeps going. After a couple of incidents, it is clear to anyone with one brain cell that her strategy is backfiring with a vengeance. Yet, instead of realizing it and changing course, she just becomes more determined to keep on doing the thing that is not working. By the time she finally realizes this and comes clean with Caleb, she’s sooooo deep in TSTL land that instead of it redeeming her all I wanted to do was slap her. Hard.

On the other hand, Lana’s complicated relationship with her mother and sister rang so very true! Her mother feels the need to protect and cosset Lana, since she couldn’t protect her from harm before. Her sister is fed up with Lana’s supposed ingratitude and coldness toward the family that has supported her, and loved her, and taken care of her, and tried to help her after her ordeal. Lana loves her family, but needs to know that she can stand on her own two feet as an adult. And of course, there is that nagging little secret.

The ex boyfriend was a little too clichéd for my taste—dumping her when she was likely to remain in a wheelchair, coming back when she was likely to become a political image asset. Nothing really original. Worse, while his existence may help set Lana’s character up for some readers, his subplot adds absolutely nothing to the book and, frankly, his last appearance makes absolutely no sense.

On the villains’ front… one of them is motivated by greed, plain and simple. Perfectly understandable. He’s more a sketch than a person, but still, makes sense. Another is motivated by a whole slew of emotions—yes, emotions. Sadism, a dash of masochism, emotional dependence, greed, and a latent need to dominate others. A third is just a moron whose only reason to exist is to showcase the previous character’s motivations.

With all the above, you would think I didn’t enjoy the novel. And under ordinary circumstances, you would be right. I like an even mix of characterization and plot in my reading, and many an otherwise bland story is redeemed by good characterization.

In this case, you would be wrong. I like No Control well enough that I’m going to check out Ms Butcher’s next installment, No Escape (out in October 2008)

6.5 out of 10

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