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Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Signet (February 5, 2008)
Seeking refuge and determined to pull her life back together, Sabrina Swann returns to the sleepy Southern island of her childhood summers. The last person she expects to encounter there is Zach Tremayne, the boy who stole her heart when she was a girl. There's a haunted look in his eyes that makes her wonder what kind of man he’s become.
Zach Tremayne can’t forget the horror he saw in his last battle in Afghanistan as a Navy SEAL. Now home on Swann Island, he’s surprised to realize he can feel anything again, never mind the sudden sure of desire for this woman from his past.And when together they discover danger waiting in Swann’s shadows, the woman who is desperate for peace and the man who has sworn off war will realize they are willing to do anything, risk everything, to protect a love neither saw coming...
A whole summer sweet sixteen Sabrina pined for Zachariah and dreamed of getting to know him in the biblical sense. Yet the summer ended with a fiasco, Sabrina went to boarding school as Zachariah joined the Navy. Now, eleven years later they both meet again on Swann Island, no longer the same but there for the same reasons, to heal the wounds of their soul. Neither expected the sizzle of mutual attractions to sparkle, still it did. One small town, two people emotionally on the mend as multiple dead bodies surface.
My Review: I read JoANN Ross’ Freefall like I savor chocolate. At first I allowed myself to sample the flavor of the story and the writing style but quickly became in need for more and started to gorge myself. It had been a while since I read in the suspense genre so when I read the blurb of the cover at JoANN Ross’ website it instantly perked my interest. I love the energy of the Southern states of America, the drawl of the voices, the pace of small towns, the scents, the plantations, and the Southern belles. I met Sabrina Swann in Italy and Zach on a mission in Afghan but it is on Swann Island that they meet. On Swann Island everybody knows everybody and gossiping is the fuel it runs on. It is also a place where roots quickly grow and people often return to feel home again.
Sabrina Swann is goal orientated, she looks ahead, works from goal to goal in a single minded ambition. She is gutsy, smart and temperamental but when she is the victim of a horrific accident it puts her whole life on shaky grounds and she seeks refuge. Sabrina was so very recognizable for me in all her actions and reactions to her surroundings. When something major happens to her she seeks comfort of home, she reacquaints with a teenage crush and feels the sizzle again for the man but is in no way going to admit to it. She needs to re-evaluate her life and what she wants to do with it.
Now Zach Tremayne is the complete package of a war torn Navy hero. After a traumatic mission going south Zach is back on Swann Island and struggling with a serious case of post-traumatic stress disorder. He lost his laid-back southern charm and is brooding, haunted by nightmares and loss. For a while he tries to numb himself with booze by night as he works for his father in the construction by day, slowly regaining his footing in the real world. I have a soft spot for the wounded hero who has trouble adjusting and Zach is for sure an emotionally scarred man. To see him come back from it and regain that confident charm back was wonderful to witness. It also stirred his predator side and it has a locked visual on Sabrina.
JoANN Ross hits multiple right notes, from juicy girl talk to butt-liscious men and old friendships. From a woman’s hate/love relationship with Ben & Jerry’s, to tantalizing romantic developments. A blend of impetuous attraction, romance and passion intertwined with a suspense plot that keeps a fast-moving pace in to the story. And when an enemy opponent with a thirst for dark deeds ups the ante the proverbial shit hits the fan. A person who worships men like; David Burkowitz a.k.a Son of Sam – Ted Bundy – Dennis Radar a.k.a BTK Strangler – The Zodiac Killer & Jack The Ripper, who all most certainly falls in the category; twisted perverted minds. It doesn’t get all blood and gory but the villain’s need for pain, for antagonizing the victims, the hunger for screams and absolute obedience is escalating in chills and thrills galore.
The writing of this author is fluent and easy to devour, before I knew it I was halfway along in Freefall. Colorful characters, both major and minor, both good and bad, are all given enough depth to keep me involved and make me feel it all. I would’ve liked more emotional deepening of Sabrina and Zach regarding their individual trauma’s to give that ultimate satisfactory feeling of them concurring it all. It is rounded and emotional only it sometimes felt it progressed easier than it should have. Now the antagonist in Freefall exuded a dark malicious charisma that was spine shivering brutal with no regard for life. The suspense lover in me relished in the inside scoop I had and the edgy effect this villain created within the story. It allowed Freefall to thrive more as a romantic suspense novel. It steered the plot from mediocre to exciting and while a bit rushed in the ending it is befitting the Southern culture which seems to be founded on secrets.
The romance between Sabrina and Zach is as sultry as it can be in the South. The sexual innuendo between them made my toes curl in anticipation of any action between the sheets. In the end the frequency of encounters are modest but their physical attraction is a tangible growing force which undoubtedly inserted a lush, sultry feel to their romance. Add a growing emotional connection and it created an ending that was high risk for sure.
Between the suspense plot and the romance the backdrop of Swann Island and the supporting cast there played a significant part. Characters like Nate Spencer, Dr. Honeycutt and his wife Lillian, Titiana Davis, the father of Zach – John Tremayne, they breathe life in to the small town on the island. All of them protrude that easy going Southern energy of long forgotten times where life’s rhythm took it down a notch. Where boys went out hunting with their father, where women congregate under the disguise of a tea party and gossip away, or, trade news as they see it. Where sins and secrets are a public knowledge and through the author’s imagination I became an inhabitant of the town.
The passion for the military in all its aspects is evident as the story of Zach and Sabrina unfolds. JoANN Ross has delivered an easy to read romantic suspense novel that I gobbled up in one take and made me instantly want more of the High Risk series.
It isn’t often that an opening sentence instantly hooked me but JoANN Ross did with this one:
In her dreams, Hallie Conroy was married to a hottie heart surgeon who could have graced the cover of any of the romance novels she devoured like Godiva truffles.
Some great girl talk between Sabrina & childhood girl friend, Titiana Davis:
“You’ve seen Zach already?”
“He was fixing the roof when I left.”
“Lucky girl. That man was sexy as homemade sin back in high school, but damned if he hasn’t grown up to be one seriously scrumptious piece of eye candy.”
“I suppose he’s good looking enough. If you like his type.”
“Let’s see.” Titiana tapped a fingernail against her lip as she considered that idea. “Tough. Macho. Ripped, rock-hard body to die for, with those world-weary, wounded-soul eyes that make a woman want to kiss the hottie everywhere it hurts and make it feel better.”
Is there a novel you read with a great Southern feel to it? I remember Nora Roberts with Carnal Innocence & Carolina Moon to have such a feel too, wonderful small towns which comes to life via the author.