Cold As Ice is the second book in this series. I'm kinda combining them. The Ice Series is around seven books and the Fire series is an offshoot, set in Louisiana more or less. So far there is only three books in the Fire series and I'm impatiently waiting for the rest. This book also got a new cover but as of this moment I only have the older hardback and an e-book. The cover from the hardback and the new paperback are vastly different (but it looks like an updated eBook cover).
The setting for this is the Caribbean waters, England (Wiltshire and London) and America (New York and California...I think). Three of the characters reappear in this book from the first book and one new character is introduced. You don't have to read the first book to follow along with the plot here, but it does add to the development of The Committee story line.
The older paperback/e-book cover is below. The icicle motif continues, even though it doesn't quite make sense since most of the beginning action takes place in the Caribbean. Still looks cool though.
Title: Cold As Ice (Ice #2)
Author: Anne Stuart
Page Number: 360 pages (paperback)
Genre: fiction, contemporary, romance, suspense
Publisher: Mira Books
The job was supposed to be dead easy -- hand-deliver some legal papers to billionaire philanthropist Harry Van Dorn's extravagant yacht, get his signature and be done. But Manhattan lawyer Genevieve Spenser soon realizes she's in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that the publicly benevolent playboy has a sick, vicious side. As he tries to make her his plaything for the evening, eager to use and abuse her until he discards her with the rest of his victims, Genevieve must keep her wits if she intends to survive the night.
But there's someone else on the ship who knows the true depths of Van Dorn's evil. Peter Jensen is far more than the unassuming personal assistant he pretends to be -- he's a secret operative who will stop at nothing to ensure Harry's deadly Rule of Seven terror campaign dies with him. But Genevieve's presence has thrown a wrench into his plans, and now he must decide whether to risk his mission to keep her alive, or allow her to become collateral damage . . .
The book begins with Genevieve Spenser, a lawyer for the uber-wealthy and connected Manhattan law firm, doing one last errand for the firm before her Costa Rica vacation. She is visiting a Texas Billionaire, named Harry Van Dorn, on his yacht in the Caribbean in order to get papers signed for his charity trust. She's not overly keen because she wants to be in Costa Rica, communing with the beautiful nature there, instead of downing an anxiety pill and stepping onto a yacht to get signatures from clients. On the boat, while waiting for Harry, she runs into his personal assistant Peter Jensen. Peter was featured in a small role in the first book (warning Bastien and filling in as a spy during the arms dealer conference). We find out fairly fast that Peter is here on the boat as an undercover operative for The Committee in order to stop a worldwide terrorist campaign.
Genevieve catches the eye of Harry and he invites her to stay, trying to charm her into staying for her entire vacation. Genevieve doesn't want to do that, but she does need to have the papers signed, so she humors Harry and agrees to stay for dinner. We find out more about Genevieve's back story as the book progresses, including a disturbing scene from her past where she worked in the family courts handling domestic abuse cases. One of her client's abusive husbands goes for revenge when Genevieve "interferes" (i.e. does her job and tries to help save his wife). I'd like to think he got his in the end but I'll never know what happens in that fictional world. It explains how Genevieve left that law practice for the high-priced (and fairly safe) office that deals with corporate charity funds.
The blurb explains the initial action, which is that Harry is not the benevolent charming playboy billionaire that he pretends to be (he's described as Texan with charm and I kinda put Matthew McConaughey in that role in my head). He's more of a psychopath that has a wicked plan to cause disruption in the world (hurting many) in order to financially capitalize on the chaos. He's headed for his private island, and hopes to bring Genevieve with him as a plaything (that he would presumably hurt and discard, as we get the backstory of other women he's done the same too). He's also obsessed with astrology and fate, modeling his destructive plan on some form of astrology and numerology. Neither of these things mean anything to me and I can't take people seriously when they follow something like that. Here he links it to his evil plans but you could also own a major makeup company and hire/fire and decide product releases based on an astrological reading...allegedly (just saying...you can read all the testimonials on that one). As my friends and I joke, 'Mercury is in Gatorade' for when weird stuff happens.
The hardback (I think they're larger print editions) books I got in the library sale. It has a different cover as well, a more streamlined of the paperback version.
Genevieve puts a cramp in Peter's plan, he's there with a team from The Committee in hopes of foiling Harry's plans and quietly killing him. He's effectively gotten rid of Harry's main staff and replaced them with Committee members (fitting a ship staff out of assassins). His goal is to remove Genevieve from the boat entirely but the orders come out to set sail (and commence the execution) before Genevieve can leave. Immediately Genevieve and Peter rub each other the wrong way (Genevieve thinks of him as unctuous and the "grey ghost") but Peter seems drawn to Genevieve and keeps her apart from Harry as much as possible.
Genevieve is a career woman, a bit frigid and alone in the world but overall a big-hearted person. She keeps trying to see the good in people (even Harry at first) and tries to save as many people as she can when it all hits the fan. Peter is methodical, a trained sniper and is referred to as the "Ice Man" for his colder personality. He came into The Committee as a young boy after an altercation with another boy in school. I think Stuart describes Genevieve as slightly plump, tall and blonde. Peter is tall with dark hair. In me head I've completely remade them both. Is that weird? Do other people do that? In my head Peter kinda looks like Sargent Hathaway from the Inspector Lewis television show, although kinda not. Maybe some mix of Rupert Penry-Jones (?) and Hiddleston...honestly I'm just throwing it out because when I reread it I was kinda shocked to see him described with dark hair. Apparently I'm steamrolled over that. Or I prefer my British men blond...Also, Peter is British. I don't think I mentioned that at all. Genevieve is American.
Eventually Genevieve realizes how evil Harry is and does everything in her power to get away from him. The plot of the book revolves around stopping Harry from implementing any of his evil plans and Genevieve and Peter fighting their feelings for one another. I wouldn't say Peter is less ruthless than Bastien but he has none of that French je ne sais quoi but is instead meticulous and passionless. I've come to really love this book in the series (it's my second favorite I think).
I don't think Genevieve is in the "Too Stupid To Live (TSTL)" category because once she had definitive proof (not just Peter's word) that Harry was evil, she pulled away fast. She's also not too keen on being left alone with Peter or Harry at first (who would blame her) but that does sometimes lead to stupid decisions (in the scene in Harry's garage and when she runs from the hotel) but lets be honest, dropping in on an international terrorist scheme is probably not something the average charity fund lawyer is used to. I ended up liking her--finding her spunky and smart. At the end she goes for what she wants, which is more forward than even Peter is. Although, there is one moment near the end (the height of the action) where Genevieve again decides to not follow directives for the same reason as before (she doesn't want to be in a possible unsafe spot or condition) but that time I thought she was a huge idiot. She does eventually pay for it (in some way or another)...but that made me side-eye her. I mean, I was 100% with her for trying to get away from dangerous men up until she ran towards the dangerous men...girl, no!
The newest version of the book cover
Anne Stuart has a prose that I tend to sink into. I suppose the plot might seem impossible, but considering all these billionaires making multiple trips to Jeffrey Epstein's private island, perhaps it's not that impossible. The pace of the book (through several climatic action scenes) is steady with enough description to keep the pace.
It's a highly suspenseful romance, with some violence and sex. Unlike the first book, I didn't find any of the sex scenes possibly problematic for people but I think it's fair to note that Peter Jensen is an operative willing to go to any length for a mission. Male, female, he's prepared for it. It didn't bug me but I did see one reviewer on either Amazon or Goodreads have a melt down. lame.
I did like this book more on a re-reading (perhaps knowing what happens with Genevieve and Peter as the series moves on. Peter is a character that reoccurs throughout this series and the FIRE series. Genevieve transforms several times in her arc throughout the book (and series). Her first iteration is the young legal aid attorney, full of promise and guts but after the brutal attack, she stays heavily medicated on tranquilizers (makes sense) and works for a large firm. She's mostly checked out of life, living like a shell of a person. She wears the clothes of a high prices lawyer (Armani, etc.) but she's not obsessed with them. Later, when she starts to interact with Peter, come off her medication and survive Harry she starts to come alive again. Eventually (with our Happily Ever After of sorts) she becomes a nice foil for Peter's analytical coldness by being full of warmth and emotion. I wasn't sure on the first read (and I even thought she had severe PTSD in the third book) but I think she just comes into herself with happiness...and maybe some PTSD.
Book Riot's Reading Pathways: Anne Stuart
Anne Stuart Homepage
Anne Stuart Cold As Ice page
Lust for Lit, an article about Anne Stuart and the romance industry