Edge by Tiffinie Helmer, narrated by Mia Chiaromonte

EdgeWhy I read it:  I was provided with a review copy by Audible Studios.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  He’s lost his edge….

Photojournalist Cache Calder lives to chase a great story. He’s just returned from the Middle East after surviving a suicide bombing that left him injured and grief-stricken. The last thing he wants is to travel to the wilds of Alaska on a “Where Is She Now” Assignment. But when his editor informs him that his subject is former kidnapping victim, Amelia Bennett who jump-started his career 20 years earlier, he packs his bags.

She lives on the Edge….

Mel Bennett’s carefully maintained control unravels the moment she meets Cache Calder. Attraction flares for the man who seems to really “know” her. No one at the Edge of Reason Lodge is aware she was the young teenager who’d survived one of the most publicized kidnappings in recent history, and she wants it to stay that way. But she starts to question her heart and her sanity when unexplained incidents begin to happen and a deadly threat returns to finish what he’d started so long ago.

Trigger Warning: Rape (of a child, off page. NOT detailed, but mentioned in the story).

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  First, let me say that I’m really glad I listened to this one because, at least in Australia, we pronounce “Cache” with a long “a” (ie Cay-sh) and I just don’t think I could have coped with a hero named after a place you hide things.  Thankfully the narrator pronounced the name in the American way so I heard “Cash” which is just fine as a hero name! (*laughs at self*)

I’ve been a fan of romantic suspense for a long time. Perhaps because I love it so much, I have become very picky about it.  I don’t mind a heightened reality but I want the world building to be consistent.  I prefer more romance than suspense, or at least an even balance, rather than the other way around and I’m becoming averse to “torture porn”.  I had high hopes for this book from a new-to-me author (and narrator as it happens).  While parts of the book didn’t work for me that well, I did enjoy it and, in terms of the mix of romance and suspense, I think the book got it about right.

However, I felt it had kind of an odd structure.  I’ve seen the structure of a story compared to html coding.  For those who are unfamiliar (and this is my dumbed down version), the text to display goes inside a series of operators which make the text display the way you want it to. The order each operator is “opened” is the same order the operator is closed.  So, there might be <x; y; z TEXT /z; /y; /x>  (not real HTML because otherwise you woudn’t be able to see it).  For a book, it opens with the main plot – and it is the resolution to that which ought to be the closer for the story. In my reading experience, most commonly in an RS, there is <Suspense plot, romance, TEXT, /romance, /suspense plot>.  In Edge, the suspense plot was resolved completely before the romance was and this surprised me.  It also had the effect of reducing the tension of the later part of the story and making it seem to drag on too long.

Mel’s and Cache’s romance is resolved after the big showdown with the villain.  There were a couple of plot points which flowed from the villain’s actions which threw me out of the story. Because they happened late in the book, I’ve put them behind a spoiler tag. As I said above, the world building has to be realistic for me to really sink into the story.

Spoiler

Mel gets mauled by a bear – my inner Kaetrin was running around with her hands in the air shouting “Tetanus! Tetanus!” and powerful antibiotics AND a tetanus shot would seem a minimum requirement. Mel’s flippancy regarding the risk to her health from this event surprised me.

The other thing is that people who are staying at the Lodge have [because reasons] their holiday spoiled by the villain – some of this spoilage is life-threatening.  I’d have thought it would be compulsory for such an establishment to have liability insurance.  I’d have thought that policy would be getting a workout and a discount on a future trip would be the least of the damages claimed.

[collapse]

Fortunately, these events came at the end of the story.  If they’d been earlier, I expect they’d have overshadowed my otherwise favourable view of the world building.

I liked that there wasn’t a lot of focus on what happened to Mel when she was kidnapped as a 12 year old.  What is there might be too traumatic for some listeners because it is clear she was sexually assaulted.  However, as far as that is concerned, it is really only mentioned and, for the most part, while her time with the Ascension Cult was traumatic and horrific, the details are mostly left to the listener’s imagination.  This worked for me and, it was appropriate for the story as well.  The main action takes place 20 years after those events and spending a lot of time on it would have been problematic for the current story’s pacing.  Still, that trauma did shape Mel’s personality and it explains why she is careful about her privacy and why she wants to control her environment as much as possible and limit her contact with people.

While the story started off a little on the “meh” side, I did find myself drawn into the story and curious as to its resolution.  Cache and Tom don’t disclose their reporter identities when they arrive and this naturally causes a big problem for the romance between Cache and Mel.  I thought the author did well to keep Cache on the right side of the line between hero and douchebag (sometimes it was a really close call). Because the listener gets his POV as well, we know that he will not do a story without Mel’s consent and that made a big difference for me.  I liked Cache and Mel and I thought they made a good pair. Cache has his own trauma from his experience as a photojournalist in war ravaged places like Afghanistan and there is a sympatico to the couple which boded well for their future together.

Mel runs the Edge of Reason Lodge with Lynnette, an older woman who has been married six times already.  Lynnette is waiting for the seven year anniversary of her husband’s disappearance so that he can be declared legally dead. She can then collect the life insurance money and, while she swears she will not marry again, once Jake (ie husband #6) is legally dead, she would at least have the option.  The latter part of the book devotes a disproportionate amount of time to Lynnette and Ramsey (her romantic interest) and the explanation for Jake’s disappearance just didn’t make sense.  It felt out of place in the story and the plot holes here were big enough to drive a truck through.  On the other hand, yay for an older woman getting her romance on and I enjoyed Lynnette’s sex positivity.

Edge had a wonderful sense of place. Alaska is almost another character in the book. I have been to Alaska (a long time ago now) and while I wasn’t at the same location as Mel’s Lodge, the descriptions fit well with my memories of it.  It is very beautiful indeed.  Even aside from the bad guy trying to kill Mel, life on “The Edge” has significant risks and rewards and I thought these were well highlighted in the book.

What else? The narration was okay. For the most part, Ms Chiaromonte delivered the emotion of the story with well differentiated characters.  At times, I felt it was a little overwrought but it was difficult for me to tell whether this was the writing or the narration.  I did not like the voices Ms. Chiaromonte used for the male characters.  They did not sound realistic to me.  While I could usually tell which male was speaking, the male character voices were generally unimpressive.  While her narrative voice was pleasant to the ear and characterisations fit the text, the male voices could use some work.    Which is very easy for me to say of course – I’m sure my own version would be pretty awful. Then again, I’m not an audiobook narrator.

I would try this author again because there was enough in the story, in the end, to make it worth my time.  I would try the narrator again too but I do hope she gets some coaching on her male character voices. It’s only my opinion of course, but I think she could be very good indeed if she could lift her game there.

It was a bit of a mixed bag, but overall, an enjoyable listen. I’m going with a C.

Grade: C

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