Heart Of Stone - Denyse Bridger
I had high hopes with this novella because the summary and premise looked very similar to the books by Lisa Marie Rice and Shannon McKenna who write sexually intense romantic suspense. But after a few pages in with this novella, I was sadly mistaken and that initial promise of a good compelling romance soon dissipated not only into disappointment, but also jaw-dropping disbelief at the issues/plot points the book raised.I am going to split the review into two halves because I will be delving into spoiler territory and there will be sensitive issues like rape. I am placing a warning for trigger awareness about this in the second half of this review.First part - non spoilery.The novella opens up with the funeral of the heroine, Robin Bourne, who was killed in a car accident by a stalker. The story then goes back into a flashback that lays out that things are not all that it seems with Robin’s ‘death’. Whilst at this point the book introduces the mercenary group of friends, there was hardly any focus or introduction about Robin and Randall relationship - other than the aftermath of his learning about her death and the regret and knowledge that things were rocky between them. I was beginning to get frustrated with the story because it was a novella, and there were no foundations or illustration that laid out Randall and Robin’s relationship and how they were like with each other. It was all telling and no showing about their romance, and I was feeling a bit lost. Other than a few mentions that actually showed what it was like to be with Robin, like when Randall was confronted with Robin’s death and was given the dog tags that had his name on them. Randall thinks to himself - ‘That lack of feminist in her was one more complementary trait to Rand’s chauvinistic nature.She was happy to belong with him and to him.’The term Chauvinistic is not one I like to describe a hero with. Yes, I know in romance you have uber alpha males who can act like a$$holes, and sometimes it can work, but more often than not it simply does not work. And the fact that he seems to like the idea that she hasn’t got any feminist ideals...well this put me off their characters, especially Randall, because I kept thinking the reason that their relationship was rocky was due to him being an alpha a$$hole and she was a walking doormat. I also found this part of the book was pretty jarring, and I could not warm to their characters or their romance.But this wasn’t the only problem in the book. The flashbacks too and fro from the past and present affected the pacing and the plot; it felt choppy and in-cohesive. Add in the fact that Robin is estranged from her mother and sister, who show up after learning about her death, did not add anything to the book - other than the fact that the author used this scene as a way to tell the reader the hero LOVES Robin.There was no explanation on why Robin was estranged from her family other than the fact her mother and sister looked like they were bitchy and cold and wanted to go to Robin’s house, which I deduce they want to check out if they can get any valuables, since they were cut out of her will. This scene felt redundant and did not add anything towards the story.I really had trouble following it because I found there were huge coincidences - the ending especially. I felt like there was a huge missing piece we should know about because there was no development or reflection on an important issue which was sadly ignored competely. Everything was tied up in a hunky dory way and again the use of a lot of telling but no showing of the events and with the characterisation.Second half - warning for spoilers and triggers for sexual assault and rapeBut those issues is nothing compared to when the novella focuses on Robin and her abductor who turns out to be an ex friend turned frenemy, Jason MacIntyre, who has a hatred and an obsession to get back at Randall. Oye, where to start?While Robin is kept prisoner in a pacific island, which Mac calls Paradise Lost, he acts like the typical villain with a deep sense of insecurity and jealousy about the hero getting the girl and the life he wants. Because there is no other reason why he would get into the trouble of abducting Robin and going through the hassle and murdering another woman to fake her death that I gleaned from the story since there was no explanation why he turned rogue.There was also the fact that Robin who knew she was being spied on by hidden cameras and had no privacy in her room, ends up dreaming/masturbating about smexy times with Rand which leads to the humdinger of the story (although this wasn’t as bad as what happens after) that she gets raped and repeatedly assaulted by Mac the creep, who has to threaten her to enjoy her sexual assaults because he feels better that way.But the thing that made my jaw drop and actually made my brain implode with incredulity was the fact after weeks of being abused by an insecure nutter, was the thought that Robin could actually even entertain the notion let alone the idea to have sex with the hero within hours of her rescue. This by the way did happen - Not only did this threw off any resemblance of accuracy and realism about the emotional and physical aftermath that repeated sexual assaults that Robin suffered and I don’t count the few mentions about the shame or guilt/anger she had towards Mac. Because jumping Rand’s bones in the midst of an escape from Mac’s secret hidey hole does not compute let alone the idea that she had no trouble sleeping with him with no emotional or physical breakdown/issues.But let me add the cherry on top to this, because it does get worse. Whilst escaping from the evil lair of doom, Robin had the chance to kill Mac the creep but Rand stopped her even though he had hints and a suggestion what she was going through during her incarceration. And would any self respecting alpha hero not beat the crap out let alone not kill him for harming/abducting the heroine?So while Rand and Robin are getting reacquainted next to a waterfall, Mac manages to escape from a prestige crack group of uber alpha mercs, and hunts the targets for his deep ire and hate. But when he comes across them doing the horizontal rumba he turns to Lucky (a fellow comrade of Rand, who is pretty lucky he did manage to catch up with him because realistically he could have killed them like any self respecting villain) turns to him and I quote “She really does belong to him.” Duude you are a villain, a bad guy, you raped and mentally tortured a person for months!!! You went through all this crap to get your vengeance against your frenemy, and you go all emo!!!*Headdesk*At this point this was the icing on the cake of how bad this book was, but there is still more!After this point the book flashes forward five months into the future, with Robin who previously ran away from Rand offscreen, probably dealing with the aftermath of the rape and the fact she didn’t feel worthy enough of him but now wants him back and is ready to deal with him.They make up and have smexy times on the couch and presumably have a happy ever after providing there is no other crazy villains like Mac in the shadows.The main problem with the novella was how the author dealt with the aftermath of the rape, I have read unbelievable sex scenes in the past from on top of horses to that of the middle of a car chase but the fact the heroine who was raped and mentally screwed with was able to even have sex and enjoy it hours within a rescue, which by the way they were still in enemy territory I cannot get my head past that. I am still trying to digest it but when I came across this bit in the novella -“That’s why our lovemaking was so different at the riverside,” he mused, his mind taking him back tothe spectacular piece of paradise that existed on MacIntyre’s island retreat in the South Pacific.She peered intently at him. “You felt it, didn’t you?”He eyed her for a moment, then nodded, a slight smile curving his mouth.“You’ve always been an exciting woman to make love to, honey,” he whispered. “But only a fool wouldn’t have felt the depth of your passion that afternoon.“You made me forget, even if you didn’t know it,” she told him, eyes serious and glowing with love, as well as gratitude. “When you touched me, I felt pure and safe again.”I wanted to chuck my ereader against the wall. But I love my Constance*, too much for that but I hate the idea of the issue of rape being used so cavalierly and the fact it was used as a plot thread is very weak storytelling. The aftermath and the idea of the magic whoohoo healing sex is the cure is disappointing and cliched and a trope that I absolutely loathe in romance, but this was the first time I read a scene that it was within hours of a rescue. Another fact that niggled at me is that we don’t hear what has happened to Mac - I would have actually liked the fact Robin could have killed him, but you know what at this point I think he should escape again (he probably did) go back to his Lost Paradise and join a site like www.Date-a-nutter.com and hopefully he can find another nutter who can really love him.Heart of Stone, is not a novella I can recommend and I am pretty disappointed with how certain events and issues were played out and portrayed. The characters were one dimensional and the romance hardly ever developed or fleshed out. The plot and the use of flashbacks and flash-forwards affected the pace and the resolution was a lot to be desired. I can sadly say that my heart turned to stone from finishing this story because any emotion and thoughts turned cold from this story and how it dealt with the repercussions of rape.