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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

ARC Review: A Shot of Red by Tracy March

I’d previously read and thoroughly enjoyed Tracy March’s super-sweet contemporaries but had yet to try her romantic thrillers with a scientific bend, which seems blasphemous since I have an advanced degree in science, live in a big biotechnology hub, and have friends who work in the pharmaceutical industry! So I decided to remedy that with her upcoming single-title release, A SHOT OF RED. Reunited one-night-stand lovers, a budding flu epidemic, potentially dodgy corporate behaviour, a crazy-ass dysfunctional family that makes anyone else’s look like the Cleavers, and a vicarious trip to the Swiss Alps? I’m sold. In A SHOT OF RED, Ms. March skillfully blends political and scientific intrigue to deliver a white-knuckle thrill ride of a read that feels like a summer blockbuster film, complete with larger-than-life action and the right touch of romance. [Confession: I love action films—the more over-the-top the better!]

A SHOT OF RED opens with heroine Mia Moncure, PR Director of the family pharmaceutical company, being summoned back Stateside after an eight-month humanitarian mission to earthquake-ravaged Haiti to spearhead the early launch of the company’s government-backed flu vaccine in the wake of her ex-boyfriend and coworker’s mysterious falling-off-a-mountain-in-Switzerland death. Because, apparently, people fly halfway across the world to attend the funeral of a friend no one knew about and then fall to their deaths spreading the ashes on a mountaintop in the Alps. Sure, I’ll buy that. Things really get interesting for Mia when she’s paired with Gio Lorenzo on the launch campaign—the way-off-limits communications director for her Senator mother and hot pre-Haiti one-night stand—and she begins to suspect her ex’s death was more corporate cover-up than accident. Messages from beyond the grave! Mysterious safe-deposit boxes in a Swiss bank! Mounting flu deaths despite the vaccine! Attempts on Mia’s life! A government conspiracy! All in the span of less than a week, which makes for high-octane, nonstop action that stretches believability but works beautifully to make A SHOT OF RED a fun, approachable page-turner with a stronger focus on romance than a lot of romantic thrillers.

In addition to the breezy, approachable writing, Ms. March does a great job creating an enjoyable and well-developed cast of characters, both primary and secondary. Mia’s mother—the dictatorial Senator Moncure—is a delightfully manipulative bitch readers will love to hate and will enjoy immensely, along with Mia’s equally conniving twin brother. My enjoyment of romance often hinges heavily on my feelings regarding the heroine (more so than the hero!), and Mia really worked for me. I liked how she stuck to her guns and refused to be her mother’s political cover-your-ass pawn, her genuine concern for the people receiving (and potentially dying from) the vaccine rather than the corporate bottom line, and her commitment to getting to the bottom of a mystery that could destroy her family’s legacy. The way she ran off to Haiti after ending a comfortable but uninspired relationship with her ex and having a life-altering night with Gio to escape dealing with her jumbled emotions, fear of the potent (and unexpected) emotions Gio awakens in her, and the corporate maneuvering going on at Moncure Therapeutics made her relatable and realistic. I would’ve made the same choices in her position. And what to say about Gio? It’s no secret I like my heroes a little beta—even in romantic suspense, where it’s generally all about badass blokes—and Gio fills that mould perfectly. He’s not shy about admitting that he’s felt something for Mia since the moment he laid eyes on her, that their one night together was much more to him than that, and that he was hurt and confused when Mia hopped a plane to Haiti immediately after and was incommunicado for eight months whilst at the same time faking an illness and risking his job to fly to Switzerland to ‘protect’ Mia after she’s attacked whilst investigating Gio is a refreshing change from the typical uber-alpha RS hero—in touch with his emotions AND willing to risk his life for the woman he loves!—and I really liked him. He and Mia make a great couple, and I’m glad a significant chunk of the novel was devoted to (re)establishing their relationship.

Overall, A SHOT OF RED was a great introduction to the other side of Tracy March (whose incredibly fun and sweet contemporaries are a few of that ilk I can tolerate). It’s fast-paced and jam-packed with action and romance and deftly explores the intersection of science and politics that is a hotbed for intrigue. Despite being a full-length novel, it felt like it flew by (in a good way) and the plot never dragged. I look forward to reading more of Ms. March’s thrillers!

**ARC provided by Publisher**

Purchase: | Amazon | B&N |


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