2 out of 4 stars
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Anna and Rafe, lovers newly reunited after a devastating separation, pull off a harebrained scheme to prevent a loved one from marrying the depraved Preston family patriarch. Triumphant, they have little time to celebrate their victory, since Anna’s estranged stepbrother re-enters her life for reasons of his own, and he has ties to the Prestons as well.
Upon learning that the Preston clan are plotting to funnel half a billion dollars’ worth of Class A drugs into the country, Anna and Rafe scramble to put a stop to it. This time, however, the lovebirds might not be a match for their enemies, whose predatory maneuvers have them resorting to desperate measures. When Rafe is abducted by the nefarious family, Anna is forced to walk into the hornet’s nest – unarmed and outnumbered – to rescue her love.
Picking up where Heartaches 2 left off, Heartaches 3 is a sexy, more-or-less satisfying wrap-up to H. M. Irwing’s Bad Boy Vibes series. At a brisk 109 pages, this book is over before you know it. That's kind of a good thing.
I reviewed the series’ previous instalment and found it both uncomfortably fluffy and strangely satisfying – the literary equivalent of a Jerry Springer episode, if you will. I enjoyed it to the point that I thought I might like to read the next one, provided a few adjustments were made with regard to a) the main characters’ co-dependent relationship; b) Irwing’s uniquely awkward writing style; and, c) the overall hygiene of the piece. So how did it pan out?
Heartaches 2 gives the sense that Anna and Rafe are more in love with their relationship – with the idea of their relationship – than they are with each other. Heartaches 3 is less juvenile in its appraisal of real personalities vs. the infatuated possessiveness I found so disturbing previously. I was happy to note the evolution of Anna in particular, who seems to have gained some independence, some confidence in her own identity minus Rafe. It’s a welcome shift.
Some of the more intriguing parts involve peeks into villain Matt Preston’s disquiet mind, offering insight into his reasons for hurting ex-flame Anna. For her part, Anna’s POV sections show an abused woman feeling she has come to terms with her victimization, even going so far as to claim no “animosity toward this person”— the man who delivered her to his predatory father and brother for their pleasure. Her feelings for and about Matt Preston, whom she actually comforts in his guilt, are very complex and interesting, but make for uncomfortable reading.
As to Irwing’s tortured writing … things have improved, but only somewhat. Heartaches 3 makes florid use of adjectives in the same way as its predecessor, albeit in a way that didn’t make me grind my teeth as much. The amount of exposition Irwing provides in every scene has me thinking she doesn’t subscribe to that old “Show, don’t tell” gem. “Show them every little thing from multiple viewpoints” is more her speed; however, eye-related metaphors are kept to a minimum this time, mercifully, and the most offensive turn of phrase occurs when the expression “brother from another mother” is used without even a wink of irony. Oh, and at one point rain is referred to as “sky juice”, so that hurt a bit (I may have cracked a rib from laughing).
Errors are still plentiful and creative but not overwhelming as in the previous book. Even one more re-reading by an editor would make a huge difference in quality.
This final instalment is less action-packed than Heartaches 2, though probably sexier, with at least one scene scandalous enough to get the blood flowing. An audience which has played along since the beginning would likely be invested enough to stay til the end, and they’d be rewarded with a tidy, no loose ends conclusion.
The takeaway: Heartaches 3, though too flat to work as a standalone, does a nice job of wrapping up an interesting series. That’s some lukewarm praise, but it’s a lukewarm book. I rate it 2 out of 4 stars. Did it hold my interest? Sure, but I was happy to say goodbye to these characters and their dramatic loves, losses and histrionics. No need for a Heartaches 4.
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