Dr. Emory Charbonneau, a pediatrician and marathon runner, disappears on a mountain road in North Carolina. By the time her husband Jeff, miffed over a recent argument, reports her missing, the trail has grown cold. Literally. Fog and ice encapsulate the mountainous wilderness and paralyze the search for her.
While police suspect Jeff of “instant divorce,” Emory, suffering from an unexplained head injury, regains consciousness and finds herself the captive of a man whose violent past is so dark that he won’t even tell her his name. She’s determined to escape him, and willing to take any risks necessary to survive.
Unexpectedly, however, the two have a dangerous encounter with people who adhere to a code of justice all their own. At the center of the dispute is a desperate young woman whom Emory can’t turn her back on, even if it means breaking the law.
As her husband’s deception is revealed, and the FBI closes in on her captor, Emory begins to wonder if the man with no name is, in fact, her rescuer.
“I’m not going to undress,�? she said, meaning it.
He watched for her a moment, then went back into the bathroom and came out with a fresh towel, still folded. Although the gesture was kind, his expression wasn’t.
His lips had thinned into a cynical line. “Your virtue is safe, Doc. I meant to set up the screen to give you some privacy.�?
He dragged it away from the wall and unfolded the panels. When it was balanced, he stepped around it, leaving her feeling like an ungrateful idiot. Whatever modesty she’d ever possessed had been abandoned in med school.
She and fellow interns had practiced procedures on one another, usually amid ribald joking, but, in any case, it had been impossible to remain maidenly skittish about nudity and bodily functions.
As she unzipped her running shirt, she told herself she hadn’t protested undressing because of modesty, but rather self-preservation. He’d been caring and considerate, a gentleman. But how trustworthy was a man who wouldn’t even share his name?
She undressed as quickly as her uncontrollable shivering allowed. Rid of everything on top, she hastily dried her torso with the towel, then pulled on the shirt he’d loaned her. The flannel was old, soft, and it felt wonderful to be free of the binding, clammy jogging bra.
Last to go were her running tights. In the morning, she’d put them back on, but for now, it felt good to slide her bare legs between the sheets.
He couldn’t see her, but he must have been listening to the rustle of clothing and bed covers. Once she was settled beneath them, he said, “Is the coast clear?�?
“You can leave the screen.�?
He began folding up the panels.
“I prefer having it,�? she said.
Apparently what she preferred was immaterial. He returned the screen to its place against the wall. “I need to be able to see you.�?
“I’ll tell you if I need anything.�?
“You didn’t tell me that you had to throw up, and we almost had a big mess on our hands.�? He bent at the waist and pulled a small metal waste basket from beneath the table beside the bed. “If I don’t get here in time.�? He placed the trash can where she couldn’t miss it if she hung her head over the side of the bed.
“I think I’m over the nausea.�?
“If not, don’t be prissy about it, okay?�?
She gave one terse bob of her head.
“Anything else you need now?�?
Looking doubtful, his eyes scanned down her form beneath the covers, making her extremely self-aware. To avoid looking at him, she closed her eyes. Eventually he took her at her word and moved away.
His stocking feet were mere whispers against the floor, but something as large as he couldn’t pass through air without creating a disturbance. She mentally followed his movements, heard the thunks as he added two logs to the low burning fire, then the squeak of leather as he again settled into the recliner.
A few minutes elapsed. The new logs made popping sounds as they caught.
She watched the flickering patterns of firelight and shadow cast onto the ceiling. She noticed something she hadn’t before. A metal rod about two inches in diameter extended horizontally between two of the exposed rafters, each end fitting into a borehole. She couldn’t imagine what the rod was for. As for the rafters, they looked as roughly hewn as he. Roughly hewn, perhaps, but thoughtful.
She cleared her throat. “I didn’t thank you before.�?
“Don’t mention it.�?
“I’m thanking you now.�?
Another while passed, but she knew he wasn’t asleep. “I’d like to know your name.�?
The fire crackled. One of the rafters groaned under the weight of the roof.
He didn’t make a sound.
Having read almost all of Sandra Brown’s books, I was really worried that this book wouldn’t captivate me at all. That turned out to be a misplaced fear. I will admit that some of Brown’s recent releases aren’t up to standard compared to her older work, but I believe longtime fans (and newbies) will find a winner with Mean Streak. Written with romantic undertones, this story will keep you on your toes and deliver plot twists up until the very end of the book.
Renowned pediatrician and esteemed among her colleagues, Dr. Emory Charbonneau prepares for a 20-mile run in the harsh, cold mountains in North Carolina. While she has a very successful and rewarding career, it is obvious that her relationship with her husband Jeff is in shambles. After trading bitter words, Emory leaves and heads out to the mountain terrain for the marathon, never expecting to sport a concussion and wake up in the cabin of a stranger, a man that she’s strangely attracted to. For the sake of containing the suspense and surprise, I’m going to refer to the cabin stranger as ‘Mr. X.’ Anyways, Mr. X is what I like to call the classic Sandra Brown hero: taciturn, broody, yet honorable to the core. He cares for Emory’s wounds but reveals little about himself, only insisting that Emory must stay at his cabin.
I always find it hard to review romantic suspense stories, especially ones like Sandra Brown’s books where they are much more suspenseful than romantic. I never know what I say would be considered too much info that would ruin the suspense so plot-wise, I’m going to stop here.
For me, Sandra Brown’s strongest writing quality is her dialogue. Her words create such palpable tension (not just sexual tension) which fuels the heart-pounding thrill when combined with the page-turning suspense. Her characterizations are also top-notch, and aside from Emory and Mr. X, she does a fantastic job with Agent Jack Connell’s character and local officers Grange and Knight (two of my favorite characters in this book). I especially love that there isn’t just one main focal point for the suspense – there are a few subplots but they don’t overshadow Emory and Mr. X. Instead, Sandra Brown effortlessly weaves them together until they all converge and all of a sudden, I’m left gobsmacked wondering why didn’t I think of that earlier??
The romance will always come in second (as to be expected from this author), but what it lacks in steam and quantity is more than made up for with the emotional intensity. There are no hearts and flowers, nor do the characters (particularly the hero) start waxing poetic about one another.
The romance will always go in accordance to the suspenseful plot, which makes those parts that much more meaningful to read. This is a book I’d highly recommend and yet another reason why Sandra Brown is regarded as the queen of this genre.
An advanced copy of the book was provided by Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: 4.5 stars!!
Sandra Brown is the author of more than sixty New York Times bestsellers, including DEADLINE(2013), LOW PRESSURE (2012), LETHAL (2011), TOUGH CUSTOMER (2010), SMASH CUT (2009), SMOKE SCREEN (2008), PLAY DIRTY (2007), RICOCHET (2006), CHILL FACTOR (2005), WHITE HOT (2004), & HELLO, DARKNESS (2003).
Brown began her writing career in 1981 and since then has published over seventy novels, bringing the number of copies of her books in print worldwide to upwards of eighty million. Her work has been translated into over thirty languages.
A lifelong Texan, Sandra Brown was born in Waco, grew up in Fort Worth and attended Texas Christian University, majoring in English. Before embarking on her writing career, she worked as a model at the Dallas Apparel Mart, and in television, including weathercasting for WFAA-TV in Dallas, and feature reporting on the nationally syndicated program “PM Magazine.�?
In 2009 Brown detoured from her thrillers to write, Rainwater, a much acclaimed, powerfully moving story about honor and sacrifice during the Great Depression.
Brown recently was given an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Texas Christian University. She was named Thriller Master for 2008, the top award given by the International Thriller Writer’s Association. Other awards and commendations include the 2007 Texas Medal of Arts Award for Literature and the Romance Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.