Sunday, May 2, 2021

REVIEW: Reborn (book) by Meredith Wild

Reborn is the first book in Wild's Red Ledger series. I guess you'd call it a contemporary romance thriller. It contains Parts 1-3 - from the sounds of things, these were originally published in electronic form as separate novellas.


Isabel Foster teaches English in Rio de Janeiro. She's in a semi-relationship with Kolt, a guy she likes well enough but doesn't love - her heart still belongs to Tristan, who she hasn't seen since he broke up with her after joining the military.

Tristan has no memory of his life prior to six or so years ago. Work is his entire existence: his boss, Jay, sends him the names of targets, and he kills them. Isabel Foster is his newest target, and he's just about to go through with the job when (while masturbating) she says his name. Granted, "Tristan" is a pretty common name and she could have meant someone else, but something tells him to pause and do a little more checking. Sure enough, he and Isabel seem to have a past. If he can keep her alive and keep his very displeased boss from taking him out as well, Isabel might be the key to unlocking his memories.

This was one of the freebies everyone who attended Book Bonanza 2019 got. It's written in first-person present tense, alternating between Isabel and Tristan's POVs. I knew nothing about it or the author's other works. Since, only 15 pages in, it featured Tristan hiding in the shadows, watching Isabel masturbate while he debated when to pull the trigger, I figured it'd end up being an erotic romance with assassin stuff tacked on. Thankfully, I didn't have to deal with as many first-person present tense sex scenes as I expected. Unfortunately, I still had to wade through copious amounts of Isabel and Tristan wallowing in their emotions. It was tedious, and it didn't help that I kind of agreed with Isabel's dad's assessment of Tristan and Isabel's relationship (all flash and intensity, but no substance).

Once I got through my initial "ick" reaction, it didn't seem too bad. However, Tristan and Isabel's laser focus on each other eventually got old, and I found I couldn't even enjoy the thriller aspects because the characters kept making incredibly bone-headed decisions.

First, there was the fact that Tristan was even put in this situation. Let's say you're Jay, with a whole network of assassins at your beck and call. You know the history and backgrounds of each one of them. You have a new job come up. Why in the world would you assign it to an assassin with a personal connection to the target? Yes, Tristan seemed to have no memory of his past, but why take the risk that some memory would jiggle itself loose?

Then there was Tristan's decision to halt the job simply because he heard Isabel say the name "Tristan." Even he admitted she might not have meant him. This guy is supposed to be a cold-blooded killing machine, who does his research but never flinches in the face of what he's asked to do. And yet he pauses because of something like that? And honestly, considering the unprofessional way he behaved at times later on in the book, I'm surprised only Makanga ever told him off.

Isabel was an idiot who had a terrible grasp of the level of danger she was in. I could forgive her initial efforts to get away from Tristan, because at that point she only had his word that she was in danger, but after that her behavior was just stupid, and it didn't surprised me at all when her decisions got someone killed. 

What happened after that was utterly cliche and a complete waste of money on the characters' parts: Isabel "disappeared," getting a whole new look and identity, complete with a new Social Security number. Except that everyone in her supposedly "new" life knew she was on the run, multiple people knew her true background and kept talking about it, and Isabel's new home was run by a woman with connections to Isabel's mother that Jay's organization could probably uncover with a bit of time. Which they would have, because not even Jay believed that Isabel was really dead. So what was the point of Isbael's new identity?

The group Isabel ended up with was supposedly a well-run information network specializing in blackmail, and yet when it came time for a dangerous job that required a hot woman to seduce a dangerous guy in order to get incriminating video of him, did they bring out an experienced operative? Nope! They dressed Isabel up, gave her some instructions and a gun, and had her do the dangerous work. Tristan's entirely justified concern was presented as him being overprotective and jealous. The entire plan could have fallen apart and Isabel could have ended up dead, all because an amateur was somehow the best this organization had to offer.

It looks like there are two more books after this, and I have no intention of reading them. This felt a bit like reading Jason Bourne fanfic (I've seen the first movie, never read the books). All the expected action thriller stuff, but not thought out very well and with tiresome efforts to make an unappealing romance happen.

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