Cold as Ice by Anne Stuart

I gotta say, with all the hoopla about this book having a hero who had sex with both men and women to get the job done (so to speak), it wasn’t very exciting. I guess with all the rave reviews and stuff, I was expecting to be blown away, but I was really more underwhelmed more than anything. While I was fascinated by the hero who was as “cold as ice” and was able to control every facet of his emotional responses, I just had to roll my eyes over the Lex Luthor-like villain (and I’m a huge comic book fan) and the TSTL heroine. In the past, while I was blown away by Stuart’s heroes, I’ve never been impressed by any of her heroines. They’re either so naïve that they must have fallen off of a turnip truck or so freakishly stubborn that you have to wonder if they’re being deliberately obtuse for the sake of contrast. This particular heroine spends a good three-quarters of the book trying to escape from the hero (which was fair, because he was trying to kill her, after all), while putting herself and everyone else in danger, that I just really wanted to reach into the book and kill her myself. For someone who is supposed to be some smarty-pants lawyer, she is remarkably ignorant. To Stuart’s credit, she does attempt to give this particular heroine some backbone—in the past, some of her heroines have been wide-eyed ingénue types who run headlong towards danger—but someone should really let her know that “strong” doesn’t mean “bitch-face”. Add some low-grade James Bond shenanigans, a ridiculously evil villain, and sex scenes that were more fascinating (like a psychology experiment) than sexy, I was not blown away by this book at all.

Genevieve Spenser is a junior partner at a prestigious Manhattan law firm. She has worked extremely hard to get to where she’s at and has created an image of herself as an unflappable, competent woman in expensive designer suits and Manolo Blahnik pumps. Because she is also a hot piece of ass, she is the one who is sent by the old-boys-club law firm where she works to deliver documents to the yacht of Harry Van Dorn, a well-known philanthropist billionaire who is also a playboy who enjoys the company of beautiful women. Genevieve has plans to take off to the jungles of Costa Rica where no one would be able to reach her for six whole weeks, but figures she could just drop by Harry’s yacht, have him sign the documents, and take off. Wrong. Oh so wrong. The moment she gets on the yacht, Harry sets out to seduce her, feeding her a nice dinner under the moonlight, and acting like a perfectly gracious host, persuading her to stay the night, even amidst her most ardent objections. When she tells Harry that she’s going to miss her flight to Costa Rica, Harry promises that he will send her off himself the next morning in his very own private jet. Genevieve agrees, especially since Harry seems to be a gentleman and a very important client of her law firm, besides. Even as her mind tells her that everything is going to be just fine, Genevieve still finds herself a little rattled, but settles her nerves by popping a couple of her handy-dandy tranquilizers (she’s a pill-popper!). It’s really too bad that Harry is actually a child molester, a woman mutilator, a mad man, and a ridiculously evil villain bent on destroying the world.

Our hero Peter Jensen is a world-class super-spy who works The Committee, a shadow group charge of foiling master plans of super villains attempting to destroy the world. Over the years, he has trained himself to be an emotionless, unfeeling bastard so he can be a more effective assassin. He’s the kind of guy who’ll do anything to get the job done, even if it means sleeping with another man or killing an innocent woman. To his colleagues, he is known as the Iceman (how original). Peter has never failed a mission nor does he see it happening in the near future. His one mission this time around is to get Harry to divulge the plan behind his “Rule of Seven campaign of terror,” then kill him with no one the wiser. What is the Rule of Seven, you ask? Well, good ole Harry plans to do seven very evil things, every one of which is designed to cripple financial world, including blowing shit up and spreading the plague in a small town. Harry wants to do this because he is so very, very bored of mutilating women and molesting small children. As Harry’s very efficient personal assistant, Peter can stay in the background while investigating him. Just when it’s looking like the plan is going to go off without a hitch, a woman named Genevieve Spenser comes along and ruins everything, with her stupid blond hair and her stupid hot body. Peter had been planning to drug Harry, take him to a private island, then torture and kill him there, but it’s looking like he’ll have to kill Genevieve Spenser, too. And it wouldn’t be a problem, either. ‘Cause he’s the Iceman.

While Anne Stuart’s writing is very engaging, this book just couldn’t hold my attention. I found myself setting it down more than a couple of times and even read two separate books in the middle of it. I think the main problem is I couldn’t like either of the main characters. I mean, Peter was fascinating and all, but there was something about him that made my skin crawl. Peter reminded me of a pitbull that’s been abused and trained to kill. You may think you can tame it, but the day may come when it will jump up and tear out your throat. I know dark heroes are supposed to be sexy and all (like Batman, for example) and I’m the first to admit that I’m a big fan of male characters who’d either kill you or make sweet lurve to you, but Peter is just… all wrong. There’s a huge difference between an emotionally damaged guy and one who is practically an android. Even in the end, I just wasn’t convinced that Peter actually loved Genevieve. Maybe he was just obsessed with her. After all, he says throughout the book that he never leaves any loose ends and there has never been a mission he has failed, but that’s exactly what Genevieve is. A loose end. I just found it hard to believe that a man who is an assassin for twenty years could just turn it off and be normal. He’ll never be Joe Average and that’s exactly what Genevieve needs. The one scene where Peter shows Genevieve that he’s human is during sex. He shudders in her arms after they do it. Ooh, big deal. As it is, I just don’t believe Peter capable of ever having true human emotions.

Genevieve, on the other hand, was just really hard to like. I understood that when she was growing up, her family believed only in appearances and she could never really be herself with them. For Genevieve, the image she portrays to the public and her bosses is her suit of armor. She can’t ever be “just Genevieve” for anyone. Because of this, she learns to become extremely independent and self-reliant. This was my biggest issue with Genevieve. In this book, she is so stubborn about her independence that she becomes blind to all the dangers around her. Yes, I get that she’s Ms. Independent Womyn, but she’s also supposed to be intelligent. Hello, bitch, know which side of the bread is buttered! She finds it hard to trust anyone, much less rely on others, which is why she is constantly walking into traps or getting into trouble. In some cases, she had the evidence staring her right in the face and yet she still won’t believe it. She seems to be contrary for the sake of being contrary. There is one particular part in this book that really made me want to throw the book across the room. SPOILER ALERT: (you know the drill) After Peter risks his ass saving her from Harry The Megalomaniacal Psycho, Genevieve thanks him by trying to escape at every opportunity. At this point, she should have realized that Peter only wants to keep her safe. Hell, a child would have realized it. I couldn’t understand why she had to fight him all the way. It made for a difficult read because there wasn’t a moment where Stuart showed us that these two actually liked each other. I understand that they aren’t exactly on vacation and are running for their lives, but I wish there had been one or two tender moments between the two of them.

The only thing that kept me reading this book was the character of Harry Van Dorn, the evil psycho. I mean, he was just so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but enjoy his antics. Here is a man who has so much money that he is tainted by it in a way that he thinks he can do anything at all and get away with it. Harry reminded me of a child who would do outrageous things to get an adult’s attention. He was such a caricature of a villain that there was nothing human about him. It’s probably because I’m a comic book fan, but I found myself enraptured by him. I was also mildly amused with Peter’s M-like boss, Isobel. Here is a woman who directs an entire group of super-spies and regularly sends them to their deaths without blinking an eye, yet there is something vulnerable about her. The way her hand shakes when she reaches for a cigarette even though she hasn’t smoked in seven years, the way she worries about Peter even though she knows he can take care of himself… I found myself more interested in her than the main female character. How did she get to where she was? What was her back-story? What did she have to lose to become so cold and efficient? She just seemed like a very strong, very competent woman; I think Stuart could have taken a small piece of that gumption and injected it into Genevieve.

With the rave reviews I’ve read about this book, I find myself a little insecure about posting mine. What if I totally missed the point on it? What if I just didn’t “get” Peter and Genevieve? Well, fuck that noise. According to the spine of the book, it is a “romantic suspense” yet I didn’t get a sense of romance between the two leads. Look, just because the two of them have sex a couple of times, it doesn’t mean they’re in love. I just didn’t buy the romance between them. They exhibit the required traits of romance novel characters—she’s feisty, he’s commanding—but the two of them just didn’t mesh well together, in my opinion. The action was suitably exciting, the pacing was good, but the romance… eh, not so much. I enjoyed the scenes where Peter kicked Genevieve’s ass, but it’s probably not a good thing for a romance novel if the reader enjoyed the moments of the hero man-handling the “feisty” heroine more than the “love” scenes. Fans of the previous novel Black Ice will be happy to hear that Bastien, the hero of that book, has a cameo appearance here. Honestly, unless you were a huge fan of Black Ice and was just hankering for Peter’s story, I can’t heartily recommend this book. When it all comes down to it, it’s just not a lot of fun to read, period. However, I hear the next book of this series is about the half-Japanese, half-Irish spy Takashi O’Brien and I might be persuaded to read that. But then again, while reading Black Ice, I had wanted to read about Peter, too.

Last 5 posts by bam


14 thoughts on “Cold as Ice by Anne Stuart

  1. bettie

    You go on with your bad self, Bam! It's always nice to read a dissenting opinion. I've been reading Stuart's back list lately, and you summed up a few of my own misgivings about her books with your review.

    1) There is a line between Hot Bastards and Permanently F*cked-Up Individuals. Quite a few of Stuart's bad, bad, bad boy heroes fall on the wrong side of that line.

    2) Sex does not equal teh sexy, nor does it equal love.

    That said, I'll still read Cold as Ice. I do love those craaazy villains.

  2. Wylie Kinson

    Bam - you are right on the mark with this one. I, too, was very disappointed with it after reading other reviews. Sometimes I feel that other people must just be plain stupid... (then I feel guilty for my superior attitude, buy hey - if the shoe fits)

    Genny got on my last nerve and Henry was so over the top, especially with the orphans, that I couldn't take any of it seriously anymore.

  3. Kristie (J)

    I'm just finishing this one myself and while I'm liking it better than a C, still I have some of the same issues you do. But I thought I'd let you know that I'm pretty sure Ms. Stuart has a book in mind for Isobel. And for Takashi O'Brien which I think is pretty cool!

  4. are you asking me to dance?

    De-lurking to say I'm very glad I'm not the only one who felt this way about that book. It's the only Anne Stuart I've read. I picked it up because I'd read so much about it on other blogs and it was very disappointing. Also don't understand the big deal about the hero sleeping with men - it wasn't like there were any details or hoyay.

    Are her other books like this (TSTL heroine, over-the-top villain, so much exposition)? I didn't mind the hero so much, but I never thought he was 3 dimensional.

  5. Helen M

    I'm still going to read Cold As Ice, but I like that you didn't luuurve it. Makes it okay for me to not love it too, if that turns out to be the case. I hate it when everyone and their dog love something, I just don't get why.

    Will almost def be picking up the Takashi book, if only because I love me some Eurasian main characters. (Speaking of which, have you read Diane Whiteside's The Switch? The heroine is half Japanese, half Scottish (living and working in the US), and despite some stereotypes/clichés about both cultures, I thought she well written, esp the 'who am I?'/torn between culture thing. Not that this was in anyway the focus of the book. Or even a sub-plot. Just something I found particularly interesting. Anyhoo, add in an ex-Ranger hero who is described as looking like Sean Bean in Sharpe, and some really hawt sex, and hey presto, a book I think you might enjoy.)

  6. Bam

    Speaking of which, have you read Diane Whiteside’s The
    Switch? The heroine is half Japanese, half Scottish (living and working in the US)

    Helen, I do have The Switch but I haven't read it yet. Actually, I read the first few chapters, then gave up. I was bored by it, I think.

    Are her other books like this (TSTL heroine, over-the-top
    villain, so much exposition)? I didn’t mind the hero so much, but I never thought he was 3 dimensional.

    While heroines are never Stuart's best suit, in my opinion, she can write the hell out of a dark hero.

  7. Jennifer B

    Having read most of Stuart's backlist in the last year, I agree with all on the weak heroine point. But I actually liked Genevieve. Genuinely liked the character and only wanted to roll my eyes maybe once or twice. But you're the third person (two others offline) to admit to disliking the book at least in part because of the heroine. I'm starting to wonder if my own take was colored by my mood or something.

    Can't agree on Peter though. I liked his frost. Could have been that mood though...well, no. It wasn't. I like em frosty.

    Great review BAM!

  8. Molly O'keefe

    I'm still looking forward to this book -- interesting side note is the way Stuart is shooting herself in the foot all over the place with her anger over publisher support. She's got an interview at All About Romance that's an interesting read. She's probably one of the smartest writers on the planet though and I love her historicals. To Love A Dark Lord is on the top shelf of my keeper case.

  9. shuzluva

    Well, I'm not surprised. Your last Stuart review sang praises about the bad-boy alpha hero, and the heroine was a limp noodle. It sounds like the same thing may be going on here, but the hero has passed from bad-boy into totally unsalvagable alpha maniac.

    That said, I'm still going to read it. I think I have a serious masochistic streak.

  10. Helen M

    Yeah, it took me a while to get into The Switch too, Bam. To tell the truth, I didn't really start enjoying it until halfway through. But that's a heck of a lot better than some of the dreck I've been reading recently.

  11. Evelyn

    Bam, I am relatively new to your site and always enjoy your comments and reviews. I just finished COLD AS ICE and, for the most part, enjoyed the Peter/Genevieve relationship. (I agree that the Harry character was way over the top but no more than what you’d find in a typical Bond movie.) I read the book for the connection between the leads and think Stuart did a great job of bringing these two difficult characters together. They are both incredibly flawed and that’s what makes them right for each other. It was going to take a very special and challenging woman to melt Peter. I felt the physical and emotional attraction and re-read their last love scene several times. Nobody’s perfect in this story and you know that their HEA will be a very bumpy one. I was satisfied with the ending and look forward to the next book in this series. Thanks for your great site!

  12. Kimber

    Bam, you have my sympathies. I read "Black Ice" because of all the hoopla and it left me cold (pun intended). I think mostly because of the paper thin spy plot

    I love a tough, sexy spy as much as the next girl but espionage plots in romance novels are teh suck. They're just so throwaway and puerile. Really, for espionage with hot sex, give me any of the first three Ken Follett books ("The Key to Rebecca," "Triple," "Eye of the Needle"). But please don't try to pass off your sketchy "shady arms-for-drugs cartel" subplot as anything other than background noise. When you think about it, in "Black Ice" all that amounted to was a meeting between some cartoonish foreign villains, a shoot-out, and the fact that the heroine had to run for her life. In other words, no actual plot whatsoever.

    Yes, I'm bitter.


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