Friday, February 17, 2017

Hard to Die - Andra Watkins

Summary: No one knows what happened to Theodosia Burr, the fiery daughter Aaron Burr serenades in Hamilton: An American Musical. When she disappeared she fell into an in-between called Nowhere. For her soul to rest, she has one assignment: Help someone navigate a life-changing crossroad or be forgotten forever.

Theo is running out of time when she encounters Richard Cox, a West Point cadet who’s desperate. After someone from Richard’s past presents him with an impossible ultimatum, he has two choices: Return to spying on the Russians…or die.

As Theo and Richard battle adversaries, treachery collides with their growing passion. Can they trust each other enough to elude their enemies? Or are they pawns for a bigger foe determined to destroy them?

Hard to Die is the first book in the Nowhere Series, a speculative blend of riveting suspense, forgotten history, and a dash of paranormal fiction. If you like edge-of-your-seat action, compelling characters, and white-knuckle emotion, you’ll love the first installment in Andra Watkins’ page-turning series. (Summary and image from  I was given a copy in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: Theodosia Burr Alston was a woman out of time when she was alive. Educated as much as any man while she was alive, taught to ride, shoot, negotiate, pursue what she wants and get it, this isn't a woman who was the standard for the early 1800s. Even in death, she's not normal. Her death is a mystery -- either attacked by pirates, or lost at sea during a storm -- which has locked her in the Nowhere until she either helps guide someone through a life-changing decision, or until she has failed to do so thirteen times. But Theo, as she prefers to be called, has plans of her own. Revenge upon the man whom she blames for the death of her son and the political death of her father Aaron Burr.

Andra Watkins has certainly chosen interesting heroes and villains for her newest series. I loved the tidbits of real history scattered throughout her narrative, even when the paranormal aspects start to spiral a bit. Watkins has certainly done her research as to Burr Alston's life, personality, and her death. Kidnapped by pirates or lost at sea is actually the presumed theory for her death (which totally surprised me!). Her nemesis in the series, Gen. Wilkinson, is indeed the man responsible from Aaron Burr's fall from any grace he had after the whole Hamilton duel. However, it seems that Watkins chose to follow Burr Alston's relationship with Meriweather Lewis based on rumors and speculation.

The storyline itself was unfortunately quite convoluted.  I felt like it was a disservice to Burr Alston and how intelligent she is reported to have been. Her actions seemed to only have been driven by carnal desire and revenge, caring little for whatever mission she has been assigned and more interested in how to either seduce her charge or clumsily, foolhardily, and ridiculously trying to murder Gen. Wilkinson. Truly, the further along in the storyline we got, the worse her plots became. For a genius, the woman stinks as a spy.

Further, it felt like using Burr Alston as the heroine was really just a grab on the success of Hamilton as her purpose in the book was to blunder into trouble. Her charge, Richard Cox, is faced with either returning to the spy game by spying on the Russians for the same Gen. Wilkinson that Theodosia is after, or remaining at West Point. His story is compelling, although drawn out. Through the entire novel, I couldn't see any help or guidance that Watkins was trying to portray. There were too many instances of stupid decisions, self sabotage, and lust--too much lust. It disturbed me to have the "heroine" in the book, so celebrated for her intelligence, wit, strategy, and ability in life, reduced to nothing more than a sexual object. And unfortunately, that's exactly where the book went. 

Theodosia Burr Alston is a complicated and amazing woman in history and deserves to be studied. But not like this.

Rating: One and a half stars

For the Sensitive Reader: So much sex. So many pages skipped. Stay away.

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