Trapped Under Ice (M.J. Schiller)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I’m a big fan of the core concept here: a widowed mother meets the lead singer of a band she’s obsessed with at a rock concert. They feel an instant attraction for one another, and eventually a relationship develops… a rock star and the lunch lady? That’s a fun combination. And I think most of us have had that rockstar fantasy… but, this book suffered a little from the too-many-twists and too-full-of-a-cast problems. There were a lot of interesting things happening — so many that at times, we lost focus on the main love story. Also, bits of the backstory, much of which is told via somewhat disturbing flashbacks are quite dark… so be warned! Despite this, I found this to be well-written enough, and engaging enough to be worth the read.

Greater Detail:
The book starts with a fairly violent scene: after a rock concert, a woman and her daughter are accosted by two strangers, and though Beth, our heroine, takes out one of the men, her daughter runs and finds help in the form of Chad, the lead singer, who takes out the second assailant.

That’s a bit of a violent beginning to this romance… and it’s a theme that repeats throughout. We find out that Chad has a violent past, and that even some of his closest friends think that he’s a bit screwy in the head…

Beth, meanwhile, is still trying to get over the death of her husband (hit by a drunk driver) from three years ago.

All of this means that even though the two feel an instant connection and attraction, they each have quite a few issues to deal with before they get to happily ever after.

There are a lot of fun and great things about this novel. Both of the protagonists are likeable, believable characters who want to believe in love, but have different reasons for doubting their ability to get a happily ever after. There are some amazing grand romantic gestures, lots of fun song references, and a fairly well developed progression between the main two characters.

But… there are also some problems. The dialogue often feels stilted (with a lot of them saying each other’s names, as if to remind the reader, Chad, Chad, Chad, Beth, Beth, Beth) and even when it’s flowing, there are scenes where you wonder if the dialogue is really moving the story forward (there are a couple of scenes with friends that could have been shortened, etc). And there are a lot of side characters, so that you start to lose track of them almost — the daughter features prominently at the beginning, all but disappears for the bulk of the middle, and then comes back at the end. We learn things about the side characters that are at times heartbreaking, but we’re not really attached enough to care too much… Both of the main characters have interfering friends that make you think: with friends like these, who needs enemies? Also, there’s a climactic plot twist that I’m not positive was necessary or did much for the book as a whole.

Still, it was a fun and quick read. The core concept, characters, and love story are all easy-to-relate to and layered, alternating between vulnerable and strong. They keep you coming back and make the story worthwhile.

Comparisons to Other Books:
I actually liked M.J. Schiller’s other book, Taken by Storm, quite a bit better. That one was classified as paranormal romance, though really, it had a more fantasy-like feel (it was in an imagined Persia) and that felt like the more polished version of her: the side characters were interesting, but never really overwhelming and/or hard to keep track of, and though the dialogue did sometimes feel a little stilted, it felt a little more natural relative to the context of an imagined landscape.

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Posted in Romance

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