*I was provided a free download of Taken by Storm by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Bold Strokes Books for affording me this opportunity.*
Lives depend on two women when a train derails high in the remote Alps, but an unforgiving mountain, avalanches, crevasses, and other perils stand between them and safety.
Associated Press reporter Hudson Mead is an extreme skiing enthusiast who has covered war zones and natural disasters during her long and distinguished career, but nothing could have prepared her for the challenges she’ll face when the snow train she’s riding is decimated by a massive avalanche.
Librarian Steffi Graham, on her first trip abroad, is anxious to hone her rock-climbing skills in a new and unfamiliar terrain of ice and snow. She gets much more than she bargained for when her talents put her on the team that goes for help.
As the two strangers struggle to reach civilization, they must compromise and learn to trust each other, a task that may be nearly as difficult as the journey itself.
This is not the first time I’ve read a novel by Kim Baldwin. I’ve mentioned numerous times – verbally and in print – that Force of Nature is one of my “go-to” books when I want to read something good. It’s on my list of “comfort books.” I’ve read it so many times that I don’t really have to think hard about what I’m reading – I can just sit back, enjoy, and let myself get lost in that world. While I haven’t read all of the Elite Operatives books (co-written by Xenia Alexiou), I’ve read enough of them to know that they are good reading.
So, for me, it’s usually a good bet to read Baldwin’s next book. The chances are…it’s going to be good. But even “good” has varying levels. What distinguishes the higher levels of “good” is whether or not I remember specifics – characters’ names, major events, particular plot points – and whether or not I’m chomping at the bit to re-read the book. Until now, Force of Nature and High Impact have been the two Baldwin novels that are on that level.
Taken by Storm (coming Sept 2014) is the third Baldwin novel I’m adding to that list.
There are a few things I particularly appreciate about Taken by Storm: the characters are nicely developed and fully three dimensional; the writing style is simple and well thought out; it’s a nice romance and more; and Baldwin’s use of location in her storytelling.
If you’ve ready any of my previous reviews, you know I’m a sucker for great characters. Not just characters who have interesting traits or quirks, but characters that are truly fleshed out and have depth. Baldwin shows her expertise at creating great characters by really taking her time to introduce the reader to everyone involved in the story. Of course the main characters – in this case, Hudson and Steffi – are given lots of attention. The reader gets to know Hudson and Steffi pretty well from Baldwin’s descriptions. But, even more than that, the reader learns about these two women through their own actions and interactions with others in the story. And what I really like is that this doesn’t all happen within the first 2 chapters of the book. Baldwin takes her time and leads up to the main action of the story. She gives the readers – and the characters – time to know each other. So, when the adventure truly begins and lives are in danger, the reader is invested in the characters. More importantly, the characters are invested in each other. And it’s not just the main characters that get the attention. Secondary and even tertiary characters are nicely developed and absolutely essential to the story. So often, a protagonist’s best friend or co-worker are forgettable, “throw-away” characters. But Baldwin excels here at truly weaving them throughout the novel.
My opinion of a good writer does not include having a lofty vocabulary or a highly complex writing style. No. For me, a good writer is a clear writer. Someone who is able to simply apply the basics – good sentence structure, good paragraph structure, etc. A good writer is someone who writes with her audience in mind. Baldwin is excellent at this. Her prose is simple and straight forward. She uses words wisely, not pretentiously. She uses words intentionally – if a word is on the page, it has a purpose. What I was especially appreciative of in Taken by Storm was Baldwin’s ability to tell a story that involved some extreme sports that I know absolutely nothing about, but not lose me in the process. I got to learn about the equipment and terminology used in rock/ice climbing right along with Hudson…but Baldwin didn’t take up pages and pages going through the definitions and details. Instead, we learned through the story itself. Baldwin shows us, rather than telling us, simply through Hudson’s and Steffi’s actions and conversation. Am I ready to tackle a rock wall now? No. But at least I know enough to not be confused as Hudson and Steffi tackle the Alps.
I love a good romance. And this is a good romance. The development and interactions of the characters – and the time Baldwin takes to let the reader get to know the characters – offers a nice “slow build” to the romance. It’s a nice twist on the “girl meets girl, girls have a conflict, girls live happily ever after” formula. (And there is NOTHING wrong with that formula, by the way.) But what becomes particularly interesting is that the conflict isn’t about getting together then breaking up then getting together again. Instead, Baldwin brings in an adventure! It’s a believable adventure. It’s “girl against nature,” life-and-death adventure. So the conflict here is not about the girls breaking up and then finding their way back together. It’s about the girls finding a way to keep nature from tearing them apart. It’s really quite nicely done. The romance builds throughout the novel – sometimes in the background, sometimes right in front of us. It makes the payoff that much nicer.
In some ways, the location in Taken by Storm is really the main character. The whole story depends on the fact that this takes place in the Alps. This would be a completely different story if it were set in Hawaii or Arkansas. The characters and their development, the romance, the tensions could not be easily transplanted to a different setting or location. Just as Baldwin gives us time to get to know all of the characters in the story, she also gives us time to get to know the location. It is just as three-dimensional as any other character. Again, Baldwin shows her skill at “show, don’t tell” when it comes to location. Rather than detailed descriptions of the train, the track, the tunnels, the viaducts, the mountains, etc., Baldwin offers us just enough to formulate the idea in our heads, but then taps into the emotions evoked by these settings through the actions of nature and the other characters in the novel. Again, we learn so much about the setting just by how the characters respond and react. It really is very well done.
Overall, this is a book that I would recommend to others. Though I had the privilege of reading a free download in advance of the release date, this is definitely a book that I will purchase to have on my bookshelf.