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I Belong

Review: Shatter by Joan Swan

ShatterTitle: Shatter

Author: Joan Swan

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Series: Phoenix Rising (Book #4)

Publication Date: December 31, 2013

Format: Paperback, 352 Pages

ISBN-10: 0758288271 (Kensington)

ISBN-13: 978-0758288271 (Kensington)

Reviewed by: Kelly


After seven years on the run, Halina Beloi’s secrets have finally caught up with her. Fortunately she’s spent every one of those years preparing for just such an occasion by becoming both a weapons expert and a highly skilled fighter in the brutal Krav Maga technique. Unfortunately, the man she intends to kill for exposing her true identity just happens to be the same one she sacrificed everything – including her real name – to protect all those years ago.

Sleeping with a parade of beautiful women hasn’t lessened Mitch Foster’s bitterness – or sense of betrayal – toward the woman who broke his heart. His desire to punish Halina for leaving is second only to his need to keep his twin sister and their extended “family” of genetically-altered firefighters safe from the powerful man who wants them all dead.

There’s nothing that either Halina or Mitch want more than to never see each other again. Their breakup wasn’t just messy – it was nuclear detonation-level destruction. Unfortunately for them both, he has no choice but to find her. As one of three genetic scientists involved in a secret program called DARPA – and the only one still alive – Halina has the answers Mitch needs and he has no choice but to track her down.

The arrival of a third deadly player intent on forcing Halina to re-create a scientific formula capable of producing super soldiers uncovers even more secrets, testing the boundaries of love and forgiveness as Mitch and Halina fight to keep each other – and their loved ones – alive.

Quick & Dirty: A fast-paced installment with a kickass heroine, some laugh-out-loud moments and lots of sexual tension. Definitely recommend reading the series in order to fully appreciate the intricate plot and number of important characters.

Opening SentenceHeather Raiden sat on the floor of her darkened home on Lake Washington in Seattle and stared at the midnight blackness through her night-vision goggles.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Halina Beloi isn’t the helpless little girl who grew up in a brutal Chechnyan crime family anymore. Nor is she Halina Dubrovsky, the genetic scientist recruited to work for a secret program funded by the United States Department of Defense and loving girlfriend to an up-and-coming defense attorney named Mitch Foster.

Now going by the name Heather Raiden, she is a woman who has sacrificed everything to protect the only man she’s ever loved from her powerful and corrupt former-boss-turned-Senator. She’s learned how to be self-reliant and never allows herself to get close to anyone other than Dex, her attack-trained German Shepherd. She’s also a weapons expert and skilled fighter prepared to do whatever it takes to keep her many secrets safe. Even if it means killing another person.

Which is exactly what she intends to do to the man who’s been stalking her, until she finds a naked Mitch at the business end of her gun.

Of course running into an ex the first time after a breakup is always awkward. The rush of feelings, mental flashbacks to happier times, the continued physical attraction and resulting sexual tension; all of these rise to the surface a second before the sense of loss or bitterness from a failed relationship has a chance to take over. But the absence of clothes, addition of a loaded weapon and enough emotional baggage to fill a fleet of U-Haul trucks ratchets the meeting from “uncomfortable” to “excruciating” levels pretty quickly thanks to Swan’s use of the multiple point-of-view.

In fact, the double whammy of Heather/Halina’s angst and Mitch’s anger became a bit of a disappointment after a while. Which is odd for me because the ability to read someone else’s mind is honestly the only superpower I’ve ever wished for. Barring the possibility of the government actually developing a chemical that can make that happen, stories with a multiple point-of-view are the closest I’m ever going to get to my dream. It’s a deliciously maddening way to keep both interest and tension high even when nothing else is happening, not to mention the insane sexual tension this approach creates.

It can backfire, though. Where Heather/Halina’s inner turmoil adds to her character’s complexity and the story, Mitch’s bitterness morphs his Alpha Male persona into that of a spoiled child who’s had his candy taken away. His responses don’t read as someone who’s had his heart broken as much someone who’s had his ego bruised.

Yes, Halina both lied and kept a lot of secrets from him. She didn’t tell him about her involvement with DARPA, the Department of Defense funded project responsible for the genetic mutations that gave the seven firefighters of Mitch’s extended “family” their superhuman powers. She also didn’t tell him about Schaeffer, her powerful and corrupt former boss who now wants them all dead, and a multitude of other things including her chemically-induced ability to see the future or how she’d sabotaged one of his important legal cases when they were together.

But Mitch’s continued anger and petulant reactions even after learning the truth displays a selfishness that’s hard to empathize with, let alone find attractive. How deep could his feelings for Halina really have been if he didn’t even know, didn’t even attempt to get to know, about her childhood during their passionate year-and-a-half relationship? How self-involved was he during their time together that he didn’t recognize the changes in her behavior? His past actions — and current reactions — dampened the intensity of the sexual tension mid-way through the story because it just didn’t add up to a character supposedly in love.

The multiple point-of-view also made the story difficult to follow in some spots because of the intricate plot. It was a bit confusing and became clear that there was a lot of backstory that I simply didn’t have any reference for with the other characters. I fully believe this wouldn’t have been an issue if I’d read the series in order though.

Overall, Swan did an excellent job of creating an intriguing story with several enjoyable moments that peaked my interest in reading the rest of the series. Definitely recommend to anyone looking for a paranormal thriller with a bit of a mystery and some sexy times.

Notable Scene:

“After?” Near rage filled his expression. “You mean you didn’t leave Washington after you left me? You were still there?”

“I stayed until I was sure you’d gotten out of DC and back to California safely.”

Cash pushed from his seat, stepped in front of Quaid and up beside Mitch. The gaze he turned on Mitch was one of the most fierce looks Halina had ever seen. “I thought you might need to see my face. I’m hoping it will remind you that you’re missing…The. Big. Fucking. Picture.”

The Phoenix Rising Series:

1. Fever

2. Blaze

3. Rush

4. Shatter


FTC Advisory: Brava/Kensington Books provided me with a copy of Shatter. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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