Reviewed by Tori
Criminal investigator, Xander Stone, is called in when all else fails. Hit by lightning as a child, he gained the ability to hear people’s thought. When he’s finished with his latest case, he hears a woman’s voice telling him she is dying. This voice has been speaking to him for years, begging for him to save her. Convinced it is nothing more than hallucinations brought on by his accident, he usually silences her voice with alcohol. Only this time, he isn’t given the choice. He is taken over by a greater power and ‘wakes’ to find himself in front of a dilapidated mobile home in the middle of nowhere. Once he forces his way in, he finds two women on the brink of death, and discovers one of the woman is the voice he’s been hearing.
Isleen has long given up being saved. After 8 years of captivity and torture, completely at the whim of a woman who refers to Isleen as the Dragon and herself as the Queen, she is prepared to die. Her grandmother, also a prisoner, keeps reassuring Isleen that her savior is coming. She will be saved if she can just hold on. When Isleen reaches the point where she welcomes death with open arms, a man appears and saves her and her grandmother.
Abbie Roads’ Race the Darkness is the first in a two book series. This debut blends the paranormal with horror to create a dark romantic suspense that flirts lightly with the fairy tale-Beauty and the Beast. A scarred, bitter man plays reluctant hero to a mysterious young woman being held captive and abused by a religious cult. Heavily character driven plot lines and an emotional base tells us a story of love, loss, hope, and redemption as this couple fight to stay alive against a religious cult who demands their death in the name of an ancient prophecy.
The beginning showed great promise. Roads’ sets us down in the middle of an intense scene, giving us a front row seat to witness the power that the hero, Xander Stone, carries in him. Not only can her hear people’s thoughts but his ability also amplifies sound, causing him great pain and is the cause of his anti social behavior. Xander is an island unto himself. His father abandoned him emotionally and physically after Xander’s accident and Xander has grown into an antagonistic, untrusting, angry adult. When he connects with Isleen, a bond is revealed, one that confuses and angers Xander. Especially since a similar bond all but destroyed his father.
This story reminded me a little of Dean Koontz-think A Door Away From Heaven. Similar in “way out there” fantasy inspired plot lines, seemingly random characters with complex ties to one another and a religious and/or mythological base. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end. The story’s strong opening dissolves into a jumble that lacks dimension, direction, and personality. Once past the initial rescue and meet and greet, the story becomes a disjointed mess. Repetitive dialogue, manipulative plot devices, and random character/scene insertions left me with more questions then answers. The story felt rushed with very little in the way of exploration and development into the characters and the reasons behind what happening.
Xander is the only character who is defined in any real fashion. The perfect grumpy hero. He is an arse and makes no apologies for it. We know why he is an arse and it makes perfect sense. Everyone else stays rather singular in dimension- acting as a catalyst to explain someone else’s actions. Even Isleen to an extent. She is the stereotypical angelic heroine, designed for sacrifice because of her innate goodness. She has her moments where Roads’ attempts to break her out of her mold-some dark humor at her own expense and verbal commitments to being strong. But she slips back easily into her predestined spot. We are told what is happening in the present but not really why. From Isleen’s captivity to the ancient prophecy that started it all-every offered is merely cursory.
The villain(s) of the piece offer hints of intrigue, suspense, and eventually horror as Roads’ introduces us and takes us into their world. We are shown what is happening and gradually clued it to the why but, connection Road’s tries to make between the present and the past is weak and murky. Again we are left with far more questions than answers. I was also disappointed in the deconstruction of the main antagonist. He goes from scary to pitiful in a nano second
Race the Darkness had all the ingredients to be a wonderfully dark and unique paranormal romance suspense but Roads’ chooses far too often to play it safe, She backs off when we would expect her to charge forward and juggles entirely too many characters and plotlines for the story to handle. Book two, Hunt the Dawn, spotlights a new hero and heroine though looks to be contained within the same world. I am really hoping this one tightens up considerably and answers all the questions book one leaves you with.