Someone was watching her
No matter how many times Tessa Camry moves, her mysterious tormentor always finds her and leaves a grim reminder of all she’s lost. But this year, no longer content to deliver roses, her stalker wants her dead. When former soldier Seth Sinclair becomes her bodyguard, he encourages her to stand her ground, even if it means letting go of long-held secrets. Seth realizes that Tessa may be his second chance at love, but their future depends on finding the man determined that Tessa never forgets the past
*blurb taken from Goodreads*
Defender for Hire was one of those books I really looked forward to reading because of the premise. Stalker villain plus heroine in trouble plus hero who is a security expert should equal an amazing reading experience. I had a few reservations about the book because it is in Harlequin’s love-inspired line, and I found that the few modern-day inspirational romance titles that I read were often two preachy and wrapped everything up in a neat little bow without having a lot of emotional depth. Interestingly enough, the faith element of the book was the best part and the rest fell completely flat for me.
The main problem that I had with this book is that there were so many too stupid to live (TSTL) moments and many times I would put down my EReader and say ‘not again!’. So, let’s start with our heroine, Tessa. She has been moving from town to town for the past five years because on the anniversary of her husband’s death, someone finds her and leaves the gift of a black rose. She lives in a perpetual state of fear and has a secret that she feels she needs to keep. This secret dates back to the massacre that she went through when her and her late husband were serving as missionaries in Africa. She has a goofy big dog (my favorite character), and works as a physical therapist. I felt for her because she was so afraid and felt like she couldn’t trust anyone. She’d survived, but she was not living.
At some point, however, I became incredibly frustrated with Tessa. Someone was obviously after her. They’d tried strangling her in chapter three, broke in her house, and had been stalking her. What frustrated me was the utter denial and complete lack of planning on her part when it came to her safety. while the hero might be overbearing, staying in her home was not an option. I wanted her to get a gun, change the security system, make a choice that involved her own safety instead of constantly saying she didn’t want to leave and that there wasn’t a problem. Just because she didn’t want to see certain incidents as being connected didn’t mean that they would completely disappear. I could understand wanting life to get back to normal, but at some point it’s time to buck up and be smart. Someone leaves a black rose for you every year and you don’t possibly think the threat may have escalated?
Tessa continued to stall the investigation by not telling the entire truth due to her big secret. I remember thinking that this better be a darn good secret indeed because I was beyond annoyed at that point. I wanted to be on Team Tessa so badly and kept being denied that again and again by her terrible decision-making.
Seth didn’t annoy me as much in the beginning, but he worked his way up there eventually. He is a security expert and Tessa’s patient. He was definitely take-charge, but not overly so. He cared about Tessa and once he realized there was a problem, he was not about to leave her alone. He knew that he shouldn’t get involved with her troubles, but what self-respecting romance hero would ever walk away? or let the police do their job, for that matter? It was apparent quickly that he was attracted to Tessa and that he would like to pursue that, but he was able to respect her need for space in that regard. He was able to help Tessa in a lot of ways because his own wife had died and he felt responsible. He understood the kind of guilt that she experienced, and the scenes where they discussed that were full of emotion. I wish there would have been more of those moments.
He reached his TSTL moment when his injured self ran after the stalker along with the injured puppy. The sheriff also left his post to go tearing after the stalker. I don’t think either of them have ever gamed or read enough suspense, because hello? No backup on the scene and nobody thinks the stalker can’t just circle around back to the heroine?
I was not convinced of the romance between these two characters. They spent so much time being attracted to one another and in Tessa’s case, feeling incredible guilt and not wanting to rely on anyone, that they never really had a chance to just be a couple. Seth was in marriage mode, not ready to just date, but to see what could come of it. Then they would spend time second-guessing themselves so that by the time they finally did make that commitment, I wasn’t certain that it would stick. We didn’t get to see enough time with them just getting to be a couple. When they were together, they could laugh and banter for a little while, but then usually Tessa would think she was doing the wrong thing. I just wanted to smack their heads together and tell them to stop all that madness. I didn’t get to see nearly enough of Tessa’s other qualities–qualities that I would have really appreciated.
I was both happy and disappointed with the interweaving of faith in the story. First, I did not feel like I was being preached to at all. Seth’s faith was stronger than Tessa’s, but I loved the way that she began to dig roots in what she believed. She came to her own understanding of what happened in her past, and it was beautifully well-written. All of the problems on the Earth weren’t solved by God, but this book certainly showed the human struggle to rely on the unseen. I loved it.
I was completely disappointed with the church scene in this book, however. Seth and Tessa go to a potluck, and she basically has ‘I’m struggling, please be my friend’ written across her chest. Instead, what do we get? We get Peggy Sue–the girl who is desperate for a man and is clingy and passive aggressive. This is the kind of female-to-female interaction that frustrates me. This woman was painted as someone who was so desperate, so hungry for a love she hadn’t found yet, that it became her only purpose for being in the story at all. There could have been so much explored in terms of fellowshipping with one another and community, but it was missed entirely.
The suspense part itself was really enjoyable. I wanted to know who this tormentor was, and there were a few turns. The resolution of the suspense portion of this story was lackluster and anti-climactic. The secret that Tessa had been holding onto for so long at risk to her own life was not nearly as huge as I thought it would be. As the book was closing, someone else had a TSTL moment which could have cost the hero his life, and by that point, I just wanted to be finished.
While Defender for Hire started off with promise, many of the actions of the characters and the suspense plot really bogged this story down. I wish we would have seen more moments of Tessa and Seth together as a couple. I want to know more about Seth’s family, so I will try another book in this series. The faith element, except for the church portion, was an integral undercurrent of the story and was the strongest part. Tessa eventually began to realize she wasn’t making good decisions and owning up to that fact, but by that point it was too little, too late. I give Defender for Hire a D.