Concrete Evidence by Rachel Grant, narrated by Meredith Mitchell

Washington monument at night in the left foreground with a man kissing the neck of a woman in the right background.Why I read it:  This one is part of the #AudibleRomance package.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Accused of stealing artifacts from a 500-year-old shipwreck, underwater archaeologist Erica Kesling is determined to clear her name. She’s concealed her past and taken a job certain to give her access to the buyer of the missing antiquities. She’s finally closing in on her goal when she’s distracted by a sexy, charismatic intern who makes her want something other than revenge.

But Lee Scott is no intern. He’s looking for the lead conspirator in an international artifact smuggling scheme, and Erica is his prime suspect. He’ll do whatever it takes to win her trust and get her to reveal her secrets, even seduce her.

As Erica and Lee struggle to conceal their real agendas, the one thing they can’t hide is the attraction that burns hot between them. When Erica’s quest puts her life in jeopardy, Lee must choose between old loyalties and a woman he never expected to fall for.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I believe Concrete Evidence is Rachel Grant’s first published book. Having recently listened to her most recent release, Firestorm, it is obvious that her skills have only grown since then. In some ways this listen, so close on the heels of the other was a strange juxtaposition. Concrete Evidence is somewhat dated already and, while entertaining, romantic and pacey, it is also not to the same calibre as Firestorm (then again, not many books are).

My least favourite trope in romance is the Big Misunderstanding. If the issues between a couple can be resolved by a simple conversation, I’m usually unhappy if they’re not talking. This book relies on the Big Mis’s cousin, the Big Secret. Both Erica and Lee are keeping significant secrets from one another and, at least at first, they both have good reason for doing so. I suppose it is a matter for debate whether that remained true for the majority of the book. And I suppose there is something romantic about each falling in love with the other while entertaining the prospect the other was actually a thief and/or conspirator. But I tired of it. I saw the times when either or both Erica or Lee would recount the reasons why they could not tell the truth but after a while I just couldn’t believe it. How much of that was because I knew it was a romance and there’d be a HEA I can’t say but I certainly reached the point where I wanted them to be actively working together a lot earlier than the book did. For my  money, each in their turn had done enough to indicate there was more than criminal activity behind their actions and each had done enough to deserve the trust and the truth. That said, when Erica and/or Lee did recount those reasons I did begrudgingly admit they had a point – just not enough of one for my liking I suppose!

The ending of the book was a surprise and quite abrupt. There were things which happened which basically blew up their world. Sure Lee and Erica were together and in love but the fallout from the rest was not addressed at all and I felt it needed to be.

However, I was intrigued by Therma-Con and missing artifacts and I found the connection between Erica and Lee compelling. They were so resourceful separately I just really wanted them to combine their efforts!

There is a reasonable amount of violence toward women in the story, including sexual violence and threat (not rape but it’s close associate) so some listeners might struggle with the subject matter. It’s common in romantic suspense and I have a relatively strong tolerance, but it’s worth mentioning even so.

Even while I was frustrated that Erica and Lee kept their secrets for so long, I was compelled to keep going because the tension was getting to me. In the end, I finished in print because I wasn’t loving the narration and I ran out housework and it was time to sit down but I didn’t want to stop the story yet. I believe the ebook is still free by the way.

So far, I’ve listened to books 1 and 2 of the Evidence series. I had a look at the blurbs of the other books but didn’t see JT (Lee’s stepbrother) as a hero so now I’m also wondering if he and Alexandra ever get their HEA?

Concrete Evidence had a trope I didn’t love and it wasn’t Firestorm. But it was still better than a lot of romantic suspense books I’ve read. Had I read it first I’d have definitely been on the lookout for more of Rachel Grant’s books and I certainly don’t regret the time I spent with Erica and Lee.

What else? The narration by Meredith Mitchell was serviceable but not more than that. Her affect for much of the book was curiously flat, with emphasis on the wrong words. Considering the tension inherent in the story, there was a lack of emotion in the performance. It was the text which made the story enjoyable. The narration did nothing to enhance it. Ms. Mitchell’s voice is pleasant enough to listen to and she had a good depth for her male characters but it wasn’t enough to elevate my experience.

The other books in this series are narrated by a different artist. I’m not surprised.

Had I read the book, I think I’d have graded it at a B-. Because I listened, it gets a C+.

Grade: C+

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