RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Thrill Ride by Julie Ann Walker


Title: Thrill Ride
Author: Julie Ann Walker
Publication Info: Sourcebooks Casablanca April 2013
ISBN: 978-1402282690
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Book Thrill Ride This RITA® Reader Challenge 2014 review was written by Romantic Librarian. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Romantic Suspense category.

The summary:

He's Gone Rogue

Ex-Navy SEAL Rock Babineaux’s job is to get information, and he’s one of the best in the business. Until something goes horribly wrong and he’s being hunted by his own government. Even his best friends at the covert special-ops organization Black Knights Inc. aren’t sure they can trust him. He thinks he can outrun them all, but his former partner—a curvy bombshell who knows just how to drive him wild—refuses to cut him loose.

She Won't Back Down

Vanessa Cordova hasn’t been the team’s communication specialist
very long, but she knows how to read people—no way is Rock guilty of murder. And she’ll go to hell and back to help him prove it. Sure, the sexy Cajun has his secrets, but there’s no one in the world she’d rather have by her side in a tight spot. Which is good, because they’re about to get very tight…

And here is Romantic Librarian's review:

The Black Knights fourth adventure features Rock, the mysterious Cajun who disappears for days at a time without explanation. Now the team is told that Rock is wanted by the CIA and FBI for murdering several people.

Vanessa, the BK communications specialist, has always had a soft spot for the sweet talking Rock. She can’t believe he’s really gone rogue and she helps the team track him down. Eventually, she is the only one who goes to find him deep in the heart of a forest in Costa Rica. But she doesn’t realize that someone put a tracker on her.

Rock knows he has been played by the mysterious Rwanda Don. That contact called him in to interrogate some bad guys, and then return them. The last one he questioned, though, was not a bad guy, or even a criminal. He was innocent. He knows those same people later turned up dead but he didn’t murder them. He is hiding out and collecting information to protect himself and his Black Knights team from this multi-agency mess. Now Vanessa found him and he can’t resist a steamy romantic encounter with her, as it might be his last.

With Vanessa’s help, the Black Knights recapture Rock and help him find out what has been happening to him, though agencies and Rwanda Don dog their every step. Vanessa feels she had to betray Rock’s location to the team to keep him safe and they try to focus on their mission instead of their feelings, but their love grows amidst the action.

Bill and Eve’s characters grow in this title, too, and more is learned about their memorable high school romance but not so much about why they broke up. It’s clear that they are still drawn to each other and they have their own story in the next title, Born Wild.

Rock finds someone else who was played by the crooked Rwanda Don, and the team soon puts the pieces together and tries to find a safe way out of the situation. But the results are complicated for those who were involved in Rwanda Don’s scheme, including Rock. Lots of action and surprises keep the pages turning until the satisfying end for the Black Knights.

There is no question that Julie Ann Walker is a rising star in romantic suspense and has the talent and appeal to join the ranks of Coulter, Garwood, Mann and Brockmann. Her Black Knights series has provided starred reviews for her alpha heroes and feisty heroines, along with the taut action and clever scenarios. This is just not the strongest installment in the series.

This reviewer was annoyed that Boss and Becca’s wedding took place off screen while the team looked for Rock, then was discussed by Vanessa and Rock later.  Couldn’t we at least have had a scene? They did mention that they would have a party and a honeymoon later when the team was together again, but still.

The description of Vanessa as a Latina with a lush tush hit a few cliché notes. Vanessa has many potential descriptors, but they do not include much about her work, as the details of what she does for the Black Knights are not really shown to advantage. We see her use a clever disguise to find Rock, and we know she contacts the rest of the team to find him without his knowing.  We know she is funny and smart, but has a bit of a breakdown in front of the team when Rock has to deal with authorities towards the end and leaves her for a time. She is likeable as a heroine for certain, but she is not always portrayed as a strong lead in the way that Becca or Michelle were in earlier stories.

Walker writes tension well in both plot and in sex scenes. If the reader wonders how sexy Rock and Michelle would be after a night in a tree and hiking in a hot forest, they will soon forget those logistics in the heat of the moment. They relationship has both emotion and passion when the team returns to Chicago.

Rock is good at getting into people’s heads and drawing information out of them. The scene where he and Vanessa are trapped in a tree over night and he sorts out her fear of the dark is illustrative of his talents. We know he is Cajun by him dropping  the occasional endearment or reference to early life in Louisiana which skirts cliché at times though he is still a dimensional and fun character. His conflict over his involvement in interrogations and his desire to keep Vanessa from getting her heart broken give his character depth.

Rwanda Don’s operation and unveiling are another of Walker’s well developed and believable plots and it all works even though no possible solution for Rock seemed possible at the beginning of the book. It is a relief that another character was responsible for the actual assassinations and he is interesting in a unexpected and somewhat emotionally wrenching twist.

This is no doubt one of many RITA nominations ahead for Walker, and romantic suspense fans should definitely get to know her.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | All Romance eBooks

↑ Back to Top