Ruthless by Marlie May (2019)
I have been searching for some super fantastic reads from the romantic suspense category. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s a challenge to find great, quality reads in this genre. And yet I keep trying because truth be told, romantic suspense is my favorite category. So after scrolling infinitely through my options for a lot longer than I want to admit, I downloaded a lot of options to my kindle and chose Ruthless by Marlie May for my next read. Ruthless is the second book in May’s contemporary romantic suspense series, Viper Force. Funny thing about this series—about three-quarters of the way through Ruthless, I realized I had read a sample of the first book in this series, Fearless, but decided not to keep going. After reading about half of Ruthless, I wish I would have stopped a lot earlier in the book, but I was invested by then so I kept reading to the finish. Still, this wasn’t the greatest book to spend a lazy Sunday with.
This is the story of Mia and Eli, told through their alternating first-person POVs. Mia is a cardiologist who has recently moved from her home in Massachusetts to Crescent Cove, a small town in Maine. At the beginning of the story, Mia is in Mexico doing research on heart disease in women. It’s also her birthday. After having dinner with her brother, Flint—who is the leader of Viper Force—and some friends, she strolls along the beach and comes upon a man who’s been fatally stabbed. So begins the suspense plot of the novel. We also learn that there’s a painful trauma not too far in Mia’s past (the ghost in her past, K.M. Weiland would call it), and this event will continue to haunt her throughout the story and it is also the event she must overcome in order to complete her character arc. Eli is the newest member of Flint’s Viper Force and is in Mexico for his first assignment with the group. He’s recently discharged from the Navy after being injured. Eli has been crushing on Mia for the last eight months, when he asked her out but she turned him down. I would say Eli’s character arc is mostly flat; however, like Mia he does have a ghost in his past—his father walked out on his family when he was eight, and as a result, Eli has a sense of abandonment and because of it, he hasn’t formed any close relationships. He’s determined not to let this hold him back from building something with Mia, but at the same time, it’s not until the end of the book that he’s sure she’ll stay with him. When Mia’s safety is threatened, he steps into the role of bodyguard. Mia’s primary character trait is that of healer/savior while Eli’s is that of protector. Both Mia and Eli are likable, and while the romance plot between them is believable, it’s just not compelling.
May does a lot of things well in this book when it comes to the romantic suspense genre. The story is evenly divided between the romance plot and the suspense plot, and there are several red herrings and misdirects that keep the reader guessing as to what is really happening and where exactly the danger is coming from. Also, the supporting cast both looks back to the previous book in the series and gives a bit of a check-in with its main characters while also looking ahead to the next book in the series and the main characters it will feature. There’s also a plot thread that gives the impression of being a through-line for the whole series, or at least for the next couple of books. Nothing too complex so that Ruthless cannot be read as a standalone, but it’ll remain to be seen as to whether or not the same can be said for future books in the series. Indeed, the next book in this series (Reckless) would appear to continue one of the minor plot points in Ruthless. The book is also well-written and offers the familiar convention of solving the suspense plot only to discover that there is more than one suspense plot. From a technical standpoint, Ruthless is a good book and I think the author has a lot of potential.
From an emotional aspect, though, Ruthless didn’t grab me and force me to keep reading. I could have put this book down at any time and it would have been really easy to not go back to it. But it’s primary sin in my opinion is that it’s incredibly slow. In fact, it’s the slowness of movement that made me decide not to read the first book in the series, Fearless. I have no problem reading long books (Kristen Ashley’s books are longer than the norm and I love her work), but long books are only successful if they are really difficult to put down and keep me fully engaged in the plot and invested in the characters. I didn’t experience either with Ruthless. I didn’t dislike Mia and Eli, but I didn’t love them either. I wanted to see the answers to the suspense plot revealed, but at the same time, I had a hard time caring. Again, if I hadn’t been invested in terms of my time, I probably would not have finished this book.
If you’re on a budget and have a Kindle Unlimited subscription, you can read this book for free (as of the time of this writing). I didn’t find Ruthless in my local library’s ebook collection and if you’re not a KU subscriber, the book will cost you $4 (plus tax). For my readers on a book budget, I’d say you can find a lot of books within the romantic suspense category that you would enjoy more and would be worth your book dollars. Marlie May isn’t going to my “don’t read” list of authors, but she’s not going to my “must read more by this author” list either. Ruthless was an okay read. Not terrible. Not great. This is a book I should have loved—it has all the ingredients I enjoy seeing in my romantic suspense—but like a batch of cookies made by a novice baker, it just didn’t come out quite right.
Have you read Ruthless? What did you think?