JoAnn Ross
February 2008, Romantic Suspense
Signet, $7.99, 400 pages, Amazon ASIN 0451223209
Part of a series

Grade: B
Sensuality: Warm

Freefall is the first book in JoAnn Ross’s High Risk series, which features former military men as its heroes. I enjoy suspense and this book, while not exceptional, was enjoyable enough that I plan to follow the series.

Swann Island is home to Swansea, a South Caroline plantation house which has been the home of the Swann family for many years. Lucie Swann, the family matriarch beloved by all, was Swansea's last owner. As the book begins, Sabrina Swann, Lucie’s granddaughter has come to the island to try and get over post traumatic stress. Sabrina was almost killed in a terrorist bombing at the Florence hotel she managed. Sabrina now suffers from insomnia and though normally slender, she is now seriously underweight. Hopefully the peace and quiet of Swansea will help her heal.

Also at Swann Island is former Navy SEAL Zach Tremayne. Zach grew up on Swann Island and also returned to the island to try and get over post traumatic stress. His last mission as a SEAL went terribly wrong and like Sabrina, Zach now suffers from sleeplessness. He's also drinking too much. His father brought him into the family construction business in the hopes that the peace and quiet of Swann Island will help him heal.

Zach and Sabrina knew each other from when she spent summers on the Island. It doesn’t take too long before they become attracted to each other, and they both begin to slip back into the Swann Island community. However, the peace and serenity of the island is threatened by a killer. Someone is torturing, then murdering women and leaving their bodies in the swamp. The killer's violence is escalating. Swann Island doesn’t have a large population, so could the murderer be someone that Zach and Sabrina know?

JoAnn Ross throws some very clever red herrings into the mix when it comes to the mystery surrounding the killer's identity. As I read the book, I was saying to myself, “It’s him! No, too obvious, maybe it’s that guy. No it couldn’t be him, maybe it’s the new guy...” and so on. When we do discover who the murderer is, he turns out to be one of those bad guys who suffers from logorrhea - an excessive flow of words. The villain has the heroine at his mercy and proceeds to talk and talk and talk, thus giving our hero the time he needs to do what has to be done. I know, I know, if the villain acted like he had any sense, he’d just kill the heroine and the happily ever after would have disappeared, but frankly, I'm tired of the chatty villain. I’d like to see if a clever writer could find away around this clichéd plot point.

When it comes to Zach and Sabrina’s relationship – it’s a good one. They are both adults, and sensible. While wary and scarred, neither is silly or immature. I think they make a great pair.

I plan to read the other titles in this series. Freefall isn't extraordinary, but it is very enjoyable. After having read several of her books, JoAnn Ross, for me, is a go-to author where romantic suspense is concerned.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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