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Joint Review – A Taste of Ice by Hanna Martine

Cover for A Taste of Ice by Hanna Martine

Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Publish Date: Out Now (December 31, 2012)
How I got this book: eARC from NetGalley

There is an untapped world of magic that any man would covet…

Five years ago, Xavier escaped from the Ofarian Plant. Today he calls a Colorado mountain town home. It’s there he buries himself in his work, swearing off magic and relationships—until a woman threatens every promise he’s made to himself.

Cat has always known she is different. Water speaks to her on an uncanny level, and she channels this gift into beautiful painted waterscapes. Now, a gallery is debuting her work in Colorado—and it’ll reveal far more about her than she imagined.

The spark between Cat and Xavier is enough to throw both of them off balance. Every tantalizing moment sends them dangerously close to a rising flood of desire. Dangerous because Xavier comes to suspect that Cat is an Ofarian—his people’s enemy. But they’re both about to discover a far greater, more malicious power at play…

*blurb from Goodreads

E: I have been eagerly looking forward to A Taste of Ice since I finished reading Liquid Lies, the first of her Elementals series.

**Spoiler warning: Since this book builds on events of the first we won’t be able to complete this review without some spoilers of Liquid Lies**

I found the world fascinating with the thought that certain humanoid alien species, Ofarian, could control water as an extension of themselves. I also found the plight of the Tedrans under Ofarian control heartbreaking. The resolution of that situation ended up with a single Tedran left on Earth separated from the rest of his species forever.

Xavier spent the past five years trying to recover from his previous life and treatment by the Ofarians. He reached a certain equilibrium, filling the position of a line chef in a restaurant while avoiding contact with women. Due to certain aspects of his biology, Xavier was conditioned to an immediate sexual response if he spent any length of time around a woman of a certain age range. One of the decisions he made while recovering from his abuse was to deny that response by strictly limiting his contact with women. This worked well until he encountered Cat. As his adventure with Cat continued he discovered that the world was much more complex. Xavier and Cat learned that a different alien species appeared to exist for each element along with several others whose powers have not yet been revealed. In addition to many different alien species, they had their own rules, politics and a governing Council. Alien politics were just as convoluted if not more deadly than human politics.

Martine introduced several different elements in this installment further fleshing out her universe. She also made several linkages that described just how small the universe really is despite the physical area covered. I thought that Martine did a good job integrating the new elements and personalities while answering some of the questions she raised in Liquid Lies plus I was able to find out what happened to poor Xavier.

MiscJoy: I enjoyed Martine’s writing style. It was engaging and character-focused. She hit a good balance between character interaction, internal dialogue for deeper more personal insights and creating scenes that moved the story along at a good pace. The romance does develop a bit fast, but it wasn’t smooth-sailing and had fits and starts that, given Xavier’s history, made it seem more realistic. I think Martine created compelling characters in Xavier and Cat. Xavier was clearly a traumatized person with a horrendous history of sexual abuse. Cat challenged every boundary he had made for himself and as much as he was afraid of what might happen should he let her in his life, he craved the normalcy of what she offered. I liked how Cat used humor and sarcasm to distract Xavier from his social awkwardness and brooding thoughts and snap him back into the moment with her. Cat was so sensitive to Xavier’s needs even when she didn’t fully understand what he was going through. She was able to think through her knee-jerk response of feeling rejected and wanting to storm out to realizing that it wasn’t about her and the mature thing to do was extend the line of communication for whenever he was ready to address it.

E: I was really impressed with Cat’s character. While she was patient and understanding she also refused to be run over by anyone. She was loyal to Michael, her agent, yet when he started treating her as if she was a tool to be used instead of a person she refused to accept it. Cat had to deal with a lot of shocks over a short period of time yet she tried to remain focused on what she saw as the greater good over the easier short-term solution. Like MiscJoy said Martine created some really compelling characters. The issues they had to deal with and how the rug kept being yanked out from underneath ensured the story pacing remained strong.

Martine’s human supporting cast also provided a balance to the world. They were completely oblivious to the aliens and their issues but cared about those they encountered regardless of any perceived oddities. I think they played an important role in giving both Cat and Xavier a reason to continue fighting to find a “normal.” I also liked how it took multiple individuals to solve not just the initial issue but the fallout from previous Ofarian behavior. As a result I have strong hopes for another couple of individuals to have a story of their own based on their brief interaction.

MiscJoy: As much as I enjoyed the first half of the story that focused on establishing Cat and Xavier’s relationship, at about the 53% mark, the suspense plot starts to take shape and that’s where I started having some problems with the story. Some of the decisions/actions taken by characters didn’t ring true, some of the plot devices seemed a bit far fetched and at one time I thought there was really much ado over nothing. We didn’t really get a sense for the tertiary characters, the abducted Elementals, or what their motivations were as we were only given vague references about blackmail and a sense that their families would be harmed. Although, I do have to concede that the political aspects of the plot didn’t necessarily have to follow a rational path – it doesn’t happen that way in real life, so why should I expect it to occur in a story (*grin*). Yes, the world building is interesting and I do look forward to how The Elementals take shape, but I do hope that in the next installment, there is a bit more cohesion to the action component of the overarching plot and world-building. However, for me, this story always seemed to come back to Cat and Xavier who were the real shining stars. They really had to overcome some tremendously painful emotional obstacles, make personal sacrifices and in the end decide what they could and could not live with within themselves, separate from the actions of the other. In that was a powerful message of personal transformation.

E: One of the things I admire about Martin’s pacing is that both the tension and stakes continue to build as the story approaches the end. Each time when I thought things were calming down a new development ensued. And each time that development fit with the established personalities as they were shown earlier in the book. My heart broke more than once for both Cat and Xavier as they struggled finding their place in the world. I was very impressed that each had to work through their own issues and determine who they would become. I felt that Martine handled Xavier’s aftermath in a sensitive manner that did not diminish his struggle. I was not expecting all of the twists and turns in A Taste of Ice but I really enjoyed how they widened the world and provided the ability for so many more things to happen. I think I am up to about four characters now that I want to see have their own stories; two remaining from Liquid Lies and two new ones from A Taste of Ice. Overall I enjoyed reading this latest installment and I certainly look forward to the next one.

I give A Taste of Ice a B.

MiscJoy: Overall, I enjoyed this story, especially Xavier and Cat. Martine’s writing style kept me engaged with the story. I appreciated her sensitive approach to sexual abuse, its damaging impacts on the psyche and the underlying message of hope and healing. Although some aspects of the second half of the story fell a bit short, the strong first half and the relationship between Xavier and Cat carried through to the end. And as E mentions – boy are there some twists! I do just briefly want to touch on the perpetuation of the idea that a woman’s love can “heal” or transform a broken/traumatized man. Several areas in the narrative refer to Cat as “healing” Xavier and both of his initial epiphanies occur as a direct result of their smexy times. As romantic as this may come across in a story, how does this idea carry over into our subconscious in real life? How many women stay in a relationship too long because of that reasoning, whether they are aware of it or not? And how many women think that the failing is their own when they can’t bring this transformation about? Now, this did not detract from my enjoyment of the story as I can appreciate the romantic nature of love conquers all, but I do think the idea in general is worth putting up for discussion. To be fair to A Taste of Ice, I do think that in the end, Xavier realized that his healing ultimately had to come from within even if the catalyst had been his relationship with Cat.

I give A Taste of Ice a B-. (I almost went for the C+ but Xavier and Cat bumped it back up;-)

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