Title: Bittersweet Alliance
Author: Kathleen Rowland
Genre: Romance / Suspense
Bittersweet Alliance is a story about a woman named Jolene who has just managed to move on from a relationship when she is thrown back together with her ex-boyfriend for a work assignment. Both are called to consult on a high stakes FBI case and she has to grapple with her feelings for him all over again.
This is a complex novel with many subplots, some of which stretch plausibility. For instance, Jolene, an ex-military-now-tourist helicopter pilot, is brought in as a consultant to the FBI to help facilitate interactions between the agents and local Hawaiian residents, and because she knows one of the victims in the case personally. In real life, however, her being acquainted with a victim would make this scenario even less likely than it already seems.
Another issue with the number of subplots is that Rowland has not woven them together seamlessly. At times we jump from one narrative thread to the next without clearly understanding why, and not all the narrative threads come to satisfying resolutions by the end of the story. An interesting thing that comes out of these subplots, though, is that Rowland ends up introducing more than one antagonist in this story. With three antagonists, each with their own motivations, at times the reader’s feelings of uncertainty mirror the main character’s in a very elegant fashion.
As the novel unfolds Jolene progresses from investigator to potential target in the case. She ends up in a safehouse with her ex-boyfriend, Danker. Close quarters speed up the progression of their relationship considerably. Their relationship is multifaceted. They both share a deep love for family values, which readers will find endearing. Their relationship is also marked by interactions that follow surprisingly outdated gender-roles given what a confident, independent character Jolene is in her interactions with others, which some readers may find objectionable.
The writing style in this book is strong. It is clear and easy to follow. The dialogue is the high point of the reading experience here; it is sharp, and often funny. The novel is set on the Big Island of Hawaii, and Rowland includes lots of Hawaiian words and details that make the setting
At times this novel gets quite steamy; it is definitely not appropriate for children. The sex scenes themselves are well written, evocative, and inventive. They began a bit too early in the novel, however. They would have had more heat if we had been more invested in the characters before they got back together.
Bittersweet Alliance is geared toward readers who like high-stakes action and high-stakes romance with a little bit of old-word charm thrown in. Rowland has fit a lot of story into one hundred pages so be prepared for a wild ride, because this little novel packs a big punch. This is a story that will remind you there are still happy endings to be had out there in the world.
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