Book: Ice by Linda Howard

Reviewer: Bethany

Age/Genre: Adult Romantic Suspense

Preferred Reading Environment: In a hot bath or curled up next to the fire on a cold night.

Reading Accoutrements: Hot Cocoa! This book will make you cold, so add a shot of Fireball for a little extra heat.

Content Notes: There is an almost-rape scene in this book that could be a trigger to some. There is also extensive methamphetamine usage.

It is getting colder here in Arkansas, which means it must be freezing elsewhere! In honor of the weather, I’m reviewing a book written by Linda Howard called Ice.

I was given my first Linda Howard novel my junior year of high school as a going away present. My family moved from Kansas to New York and my friend group, knowing how much I enjoyed escaping into romance novels, gave me To Die For. Thus began my obsession with Howard’s particular brand of sarcasm…and her romance novels, too.

At first glance, the plot of Ice is simple: Gavin and Lorelai (Lolly for short) were arch nemeses in high school in a small town in Maine. Fifteen years later, Gavin is on leave from the military and visiting his family when an incoming ice storm makes his father ask Gavin to check on a distant neighbor – you guessed it! – Lolly.

Lolly’s family moved away several years prior and has decided to sell their house, so she is back in town to pack up their few remaining belongings and prep the house for sale. The family home is high enough in the mountains to prevent cell service and to strand her for several weeks if she is still home when the storm strikes.

Gavin, armed with thermoses of soup and coffee and an invitation for Lolly to stay at his parents’ home, heads to Lolly’s house just in time to strand himself on her driveway. As he walks up to the house, he spots two strangers through the living room window – and one of them has a gun! He rescues Lolly from the house, but the two must survive a brutal ice storm…while being hunted by the criminals who attacked Lolly…

Meanwhile, (because this is a romantic suspense novel) Gavin and Lolly discover that they don’t really hate each other after all…

Okay, so I am usually very opposed to the arch-nemeses-turned-lovers trope in romance novels (seriously, I rolled my eyes when I started rereading this book and realized that was a plot point) because, well, romance novels are short and there is limited time to satisfactorily explain all of the nuances in the attitude turnaround. But the arch-nemeses-turned-lovers trope is present in several of Howard’s books and I don’t mind. There is a very simple reason: Howard cheats. Since her novels are romantic suspense, she circumvents the time-to-get-over-the-past problem by throwing the characters into tense and life-threatening situations. She also throws in a little we-never-really-hated-each-other, we-were-young-and-stupid/ in-denial/ not-ready-for-the-relationship-to-move-forward-yet rhetoric so you don’t have to question personality 180s.

Since I chose this book because of the title, I feel the need to talk about it for a second and maybe give a little nod to Howard’s punniness. Ice is actually a pretty apt title for a couple of reasons: 1) Yes, it takes place during an ice storm and said storm is really essential to the plot. 2) Lolly and Gavin had really cold attitudes toward one another in high school because she was socially awkward and had a crush on him and Gavin didn’t understand why she was the one girl who didn’t melt at his feet. Lolly melts Gavin’s icy attitude by defying his expectations throughout their harrowing experience. 3) The intruders who hold Lolly hostage? They’re meth addicts. And another word for meth is…drumroll, please…ice! Not that the meth does much in this story except give a couple of tweakers ridiculous strength and really high pain tolerance…

Now let’s talk about a couple more romantic suspense novel character stereotypes that are present in this book at first glance, and whether Howard fell prey:

  • The hero is military or police. Gavin is an MP. That’s right, the hero is both military AND a cop. How unique! NOT.  Now, I’m not saying that’s a problem by itself. It actually makes a kind of sense: people with a sense of honor and protective instincts often join the military or police force. However, romance novelists tend to use these professions to give us a built-in, pretrained, superhuman. Let’s be honest y’all, not all people in the armed forces are sharpshooters with the ability to get shot, run 3 miles, and fight off 5 bad guys before they sew themselves up. That’s why I love Howard’s portrayals of police and military personnel. Gavin struggles to fight off a couple of meth addicts in the middle of an ice storm. He feels the physically exhausting effects of the cold and has the same trouble with hypothermia that Lolly experiences. Except for…well, we’ll get to that…
  • The heroine, with no experience or training for a situation like this, suddenly has skills that help her to survive or even save the hero OR the heroine, with no experience or training for a situation like this, completely freaks out and does something stupid to make the situation worse. This one is pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll spare you the rant and just move on to how the characters in Ice faired: Lolly doesn’t suddenly gain the ability to fight well, run/walk several miles without feeling exhausted, or identify guns that she’s never seen before. She is, however, an insurance adjuster in Maine, so she has solid understanding of the dangers of ice storms and how best to survive them – and she acknowledges that staying inside would be safest if there weren’t meth addicts who wanted to rob, rape, and murder her in her house.
  • Kissing and/or sex when danger still lurks. Again, this one is pretty self-explanatory. But it’s a HUGE pet peeve of mine, in both books and movies, so you can’t escape this rant (sorry, not sorry). Why in the name of ALL THAT IS HOLY, would you stop in the middle of a gun fight, chase scene, or other tense and high-danger moment to stare deep into the eyes of this person you just realized you love and then kiss and/or have sex with that person. IN. THE. MIDDLE. OF. A. GUN. FIGHT. When you are actively putting yourself and the newly-discovered-love-of-your-life in danger by doing so? Hmmm? No. There is no good reason. Wait until you both survive and then express your physical affection. We clear? Good. So now that’s over, let’s talk about Ice. Gavin and Lolly do have sex when there is still danger. After watching the bad guys drive over a cliff, Gavin and Lolly go back to her house and fight off hypothermia with a hot shower that…gets…steamy…Howard probably thought she got away with it because Gavin and Lolly thought the bad guys were dead, and if that was the only danger I’d agree. But Gavin and Lolly were fighting off hypothermia a couple minutes ago, both so tired that they repeatedly used the word exhausted to describe their physical states. I’m sorry, but shower sex – especially standing up with her legs wrapped around him shower sex – is not happening in these circumstances.

The plot made me think a bit of In Cold Blood because of the total randomness of meth addicts following some random woman home from a supermarket in an small, obscure town to rob her. It’s a unique plot for romance novels and I think Howard did a good job of making it convincing.

Ice is a pretty quick read; it’s only 213 pages long. If you’re snowed in and the power is out, this book might have your teeth chattering from the cold. But if you have a fire roaring and are huddled under a pile of blankets with a cup of hot cocoa (and Fireball, if you are so inclined), Ice is a great escapist read.

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