Monday, December 18, 2017

Jen's Review: The Pretender

The Pretender by HelenKay Dimon
Publisher: Avon (December 26, 2017)
Series: Games People Play, 3
Genre: Romantic Suspense

“Sexy, emotional, funny . . . Dimon gives it all to her readers.” —New York Times Bestselling Author Jill Shalvis

They say it takes a thief to catch a thief, and Harrison Tate is proof. Once a professional burglar, he now makes a lawful living tracking down stolen art. No one needs to know about his secret sideline, “liberating” artifacts acquired through underhanded methods. At least until one of those jobs sees him walking in on a murder.

Gabrielle Wright has long been estranged from her wealthy family, but she didn’t kill her sister. Trouble is, the only person who can prove it is the sexy, elusive criminal who shouldn’t have been at the island estate on that terrible night. She’s not expecting honor among thieves—or for their mutual attraction to spark into an intense inferno of desire.

Under the guise of evaluating her family’s art, Harris comes back to the estate hoping to clear Gabby’s name. But returning to the scene of the crime has never been riskier, with their hearts and lives on the line. 

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    Jen's Review:

    I am a bad reader of romantic suspense. I can’t help it! Every time they’re gathering clues, skulking around in the dark, or on the run from the bad guys, I find myself wondering why they aren’t spending more time kissing; on the other hand, every time they’re kissing and enjoying the sexy times, I’m giving them the side-eye for ignoring their dangerous circumstances. Focus for a minute and stop making out! Can’t you see you’re in grave peril!? I know this makes no sense, but it’s how I feel. However, The Games People Play series by HelenKay Dimon has managed to hit all the right notes for me. I quite enjoyed the newest, fourth installment in the series, The Pretender. You could easily read this as a stand-alone, even though some previous characters make brief appearances.

    Harrison Tate is a thief who steals previously stolen artwork and returns it to its rightful owner. At the beginning of this book, Harrison is finally making his move to *ahem* acquire the painting he’s been scoping out---when he stumbles on the murder scene of heiress Tabitha Wright. Tabitha’s sister Gabby enters the house only minutes after Harris discovers the body. He flees the scene, causing irreparable damage to the evidence at the scene, which leaves everyone to assume Gabby is the murderer. At this point, I just chanted to myself, “Harris, Harris, Harris. Any romance reader could tell you that one day you’re going to fall in love with Gabby. You’re going to really regret that fuck-up.” Fast forward 14 months and Harris finally has the opportunity to find the real killer.

    The Pretender does some things very well. I found the actual mystery to be satisfying. There were enough red herrings and moments of misdirection that I didn’t feel like I solved the mystery before the characters. Both Harris and Gabby are keeping secrets from each other, but the gradual way they trust each other felt real and right. As they work together, they start to uncover more clues about who might have caused the murders. There’s an urgency to figuring it out, but it doesn’t seem rushed.

    I liked Gabby. She was vulnerable and lonely, but with an edge of steel. Her only remaining family member has turned against her, and she mourns the mistakes she made as a teenager. Sometimes when old mistakes linger too long in the mind of a character, I’m annoyed. But in this case, I genuinely believe her old mistakes and hurts got buried, multiplied, and then buried again. She handles herself with dignity despite her grief and fear. As a hero, Harris is strong but also hiding his own hurts and fears. His guilt and remorse over ruining the crime scene cause him to be more open to Gabby than he has been to other women. I like that he was sort of dumb about reading her signals, and it’s sweet how confused he is about his own his feelings.

    There was one troubling thing about The Pretender that took me a while to put my finger on it: it doesn’t even come close to passing the Bechdel test. It’s almost unreal that there are no women except Gabby in the book. There’s Tabatha, who basically dies on the first page. And there is a brief scene with Emery, a heroine from a previous book, but it’s all just backstory for Harris. After chapter two, there is literally not another female character in the book. Gabby is reserved, but she’s not a recluse, so how could I believe that she did not have a single solitary woman to rely on for help and support? Some of it’s setting--they’re on a private island. But she doesn’t call or text anyone to talk about her new romance or to bitch about her awful uncle? I am resigned to Hollywood blockbusters with a 6:1 male-female character ratio, but that is an industry dominated by men. I expect better in romance. I’m thrilled that Gabby is a strong and fights for herself without expecting a man to save her, but can’t she still have a few girlfriends?

    The Pretender strikes a good balance between suspense and romance between two damaged people who learn to trust each other. I liked Gabby and Harris and this is a solid entry in a series that I’ve found really satisfying from the start.

    4 1/2 STARS! 

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    Jen received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss.

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    Thanks for the review, Jen! I need to finish up this series, I did quite enjoy book 2 (the only one I've read so far . . . yes, I am horrible about reading in order sometimes!).

    Remember, since this is a Royal Pick, come back on December 28th for a chance to win an ecopy of your own!

    Have you read HelenKay Dimon?


    Until Next Time,

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