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    Review of Anne Stuart’s ‘ICE’ Series by Anna Campbell
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  • Published: Nov 21st, 2008

Anna_head I’m a long-time fan of Anne Stuart. I adore her historicals which always feature dark, dark, DARK heroes and an edgy, complex plot. They’re powerful, emotional, passionate tales of difficult redemption. In fact, just the sort of stories tStuart_blackicehat translate perfectly to contemporary romantic suspense.

The first ‘Ice’ book, BLACK ICE, came out in 2006 and there are now five in the  series. Avid fans like me hope for more! They feature agents working for a mysterious, ruthless but ultimately benevolent (in a the means justify the ends kind of way) organization called The Committee. So plenty of scope for Ms. Stuart’s trademark tormented, dangerous heroes – you’re never quite sure in these books whether the hero will kill the heroine. In fact, the hero and the heroine are never quite sure either!

BLACK ICE actually has our hero, Bastien Toussaint (isn’t that a cool name?) ordered to do just that when translator Chloe Underwood unwittingly becomes involved in an international arms deal with some seriously bad guys. Actually another Stuart trademark – one of the things that makes the sinister hero sympathetic is that the bad guys are BAAAAAAAD. But our ruthless, heartless,Stuart_coldasice focused Bastien finds himself at the mercy of emotions he’s never felt before. And the Ice Man melteth.

COLD AS ICE, the second book, is my favorite in the series so far. Again it features a ruthless Committee agent completely at sea when he falls in love and reluctantly discovers that his cold, solitary existence can no longer sustain him. Although if Peter Jensen can’t keep the heroine Genevieve Spenser alive, alone is how he’s going to end up. I think what particularly appealed to me about this one is the Genevieve is smart and gutsy and far from a pushover for the sexy Peter. Although of course, both of them are helpless when love gets them in its sights. There’s some great snark in the relationship that at times had me laughing out loud, in betweenStuart_ice the bits where I hid under the covers! I’m sure I mentioned these books are terrifically suspenseful!

ICE BLUE won this year’s RITA for best romantic suspense. What more do I need to say? It features a great half-Japanese hero Takashi O’Brien and a bookish heroine, Summer Hawthorne, who’s an expert in Japanese ceramics. I love stories about nerds forced outside their comfort zone and this one was a whirlwind ride from beginning to end.

Stuart_icestorm ICE STORM features the female head of the Committee, Isobel Lambert, who is one cool dudess. Until (yes, you guessed it) passion overtakes her life when she falls into the clutches of the mysterious Serafin, aka The Butcher. Um, I’m sure I mentioned dangerous heroes! But these two hard-edged souls share a past that still holds them in thrall and adds an extra edge of peril to a wild chase through Europe. Excellent stuff!

FIRE AND ICE is the latest instalment in this great series of rollercoaster romantic suspense and I just read it as a reward for getting my latest book into Avon. Honestly, it’s like dark chocolate! Yum! This one is mainly set in Japan, a fascinating and unusual background that adds enormous resonance to this story of two people on the run and not knowing who they can trust. The hero is Takashi’s Stuart_fireandice cousin, the wild and flamboyant Reno, and another bookish heroine, Summer’s half-sister, Jilly Lovitz. They’re the worst possible combination and yet perfect together. The sexual tension is fabulous – there’s a memorable scene where the two of them hide out in a capsule hotel room in Japan. A room built for one containing two people who are doing their best to fight their attraction. The result is fireworks!

So seriously grab these books. Each story will stand alone but it’s great to have the whole lot and see how the characters develop. Happy reading! Well, nervous, scary, edgy, dark reading, but you know what I mean…

38 Responses to “Review of Anne Stuart’s ‘ICE’ Series by Anna Campbell”

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  1. Marisa
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 1:08 pm

    Anna, Kati has been telling me about this series for a while now. I believe it has a lot to do with the heroes – those dark heroes that you’re not quite sure if you should care for or not; the ones that live on the edge of romancelandia. I like a good ‘dark’ hero who has flaws but also makes you wonder – right up to the very end – if he’s redeemable or not.

    I have these books on my list of books to buy – and now of course I’ll have to put in an order at Amazon – I could do an ICE marathon over the holidays.

  2. Kati
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 1:51 pm

    I adore Black Ice. It’s my favorite of the group. Anne’s heroes are seriously anti-heroes. Especially Sebastian, who fascinated me because he was a big question mark all the way through the book. He was utterly ruthless. And Peter Jenson? So wonderful. And smart, and willing to do absolutely anything.

    Marisa, you would freaking LOVE these books! The heroes are seriously smart and lethal. I mean, really, really lethal. Like, they’d just as soon kill you than f*ck you. Sorry to be crude, but it’s really true.

    My only quibble with some of the books is that the heroes are SO dominant that the heroines sometimes come off as TSTL. Although, I’m sure I’d do the same if I were put in the kinds of life or death situations they are.

    But the books are so well written, and feature edge of your seat action and extremely hot sexin’. They’re a totally fun read.

    Thanks Anna for yet another really excellent review!

  3. Maria Lokken
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 1:55 pm

    I like a good dark hero who goes through trials to come out the other side. But of late, I’ve been reading books with very ‘tame’ heroes – ones that you root for from the very beginning. The ones where they’ve got everything going for them, so why wouldn’t the heroine fall in love – it’s actually a change of pace for me. Recently I’ve read “My Sisters” and “Casting Spells” – both had heroes that I liked straightaway – and I have to say it gave me a nice breather from the angst. Another book that comes to mind, where the hero is straight up great from the start is Ford Sawyer from “Tribute”.

  4. Maria Lokken
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 1:56 pm

    Kati – I posted my thoughts while you were writing. So, once again – I really think you and Marisa should be twins – was there a switch somewhere in time??? Hmmmm……

  5. Marisa
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 2:09 pm

    Kati – I’m with you – and I know you’ve been telling me to read this series forever – so I’m doing it. I ordered all my copies today. Woohoo! Lethal smart heroes , can’t get much better than that.

    Maria – I know you’re enjoying a period of heroes and heroines that have a sense of serenity about that – and I understand – however, there’s something about DANGER that will spark my interest every time. And the ‘badder’ the hero is the more I come to love him when he finds his way to redemption.

  6. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 2:23 pm

    Morning, all! Cracks eye open to make sure day really has arrived in Oz!

    Marisa, seriously, give these books a go. I liked some more than others but I think that’s inevitable in a series. And the heroes are ALL fantastic – in that dark, compelling mode that I know you like! I was so interested in saying more about her that My Favorite Things on my website next month is also a salute to Anne Stuart so I could talk about the non-Ice books, um, does that make them water books? Anyway, what I like about Anne Stuart is that these guys aren’t ‘pretend’ dangerous. I’ve read a lot of romances where the hero really isn’t ruthless and hard-hearted and dangerous. Believe me, these guys are ALL that and more! She doesn’t pull her punches and it makes for a really intense reading experience.

  7. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 2:28 pm

    Kati, I hear you on the hero/heroine match, although to read an Anne Stuart hero, I’ll walk over broken glass (broken ice?) so it’s more a quibble than a complaint. I think that’s why I liked Cold as Ice the best. Genevieve really does give Peter a run for his money. Chloe was softer, more innocent and I didn’t get quite the same punch from her relationship with Bastien. Actually something I will say in favor of these heroines is all of them are a bit geeky and very intellectual. As a card-carrying geek, I LOVE that in a heroine. Especially when she gets the dark, dangerous hero in the end 😉 So glad you like the review – I was cheering when Ice Blue (which is probably my second favorite in the series) won at the RITAs and it was so gorgeous to see how happy Anne Stuart was to receive her award! No false-coyness there at all! For all that, though, I think these books went under a lot of people’s radars and they’re great!

  8. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 2:32 pm

    Maria, I think sometimes it’s harder to bring off a hero who is a ‘good’ man than a bad hero. I mean, with a bad hero, you automatically have the conflict built in, don’t you? I remember reading Beth Andrews’s NOT WITHOUT HER FAMILY – the hero of that is a serious straightshooter and could have been considered just too self-righteous and goody-two-shoes to live. But instead, he’s amazing. She really achieved that sexy good man type! Yay, Beth! I think there’s room for all sorts of heroes – but a lot of writers shy away from writing a REALLY dark hero and the consequences of that. Anne Stuart doesn’t. One of my favorite books of hers is called RITUAL SINS – the hero is a guy who’s been in jail for murder and he’s now running a scam religious retreat for rich dilettantes. He seems completely unredeemable. He seems completely scary! Yet he’s so compelling. I think one of the things AS does to achieve this (which is soooo tough) is make the heroes perfectly aware that they’re rotters. So the reader becomes a co-conspirator in his darkness somehow. It’s very clever! That self-mocking, black sense of humor really draws a reader in!

  9. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 2:35 pm

    Twins? TRIPLETS!!! Now, that really IS scary 😉

  10. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 2:37 pm

    Marisa, I’d be really interested to know how you go with these books and which one is your favorite.

  11. Karin
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 2:48 pm

    I had never heard of these books before, but they sound like ones I would really enjoy. The snippets in the post have me really intrigued and I think I’ll be adding these to my list of books I need to buy.

  12. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 3:00 pm

    Hi Karin! I’m always sad when really good books seem to miss out on the attention they deserve. Give these a go – if you like a really tense suspense with lots and lots of sexual tension, you’ll really enjoy them. Glad my review alerted you to their existence! And if you like them, the wonderful thing is Anne Stuart has a backlist longer than your arm! I love it when I discover a great new author and they have lots of books for me to read! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE her historicals where the dark heroes really come into their own (her Regency rakes are REAL rakes!). I love the way when her heroes fall in love, their darkness means the stakes are SOOOO high right from the get-go. These aren’t nice guys looking for their soulmates. These are lone wolves and the arrival of a grand passion spells disaster for them!

  13. PJ
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 3:54 pm

    Great review, Anna! I haven’t read any of Anne Stuart’s books though I’ve heard plenty about them. I may even have one of them in my tbr stash. (Yes, it is so big that I’m not exactly sure what books are in there) I’ll have to go check. I have some Amazon gift cards burning a hole in my pocket. Hmmm…this may be the perfect time to use them. 🙂

  14. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 4:01 pm

    PJ, I think AS would really appeal to you! How odd you’ve never read her. She’s been one of my favorite writers for years and an autobuy. Yeah, I hear you on the TBR pile – actually it’s quite fun sometimes, like I’ve got a new book that I didn’t have to pay for 😉 Glad you enjoyed the review. Thanks!

  15. Marisa
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 4:07 pm

    Anna, I love reading your reviews, but I really love reading your comments. It always gives me insight into the characters you write.
    Kylemore any one? I won’t give anything away but it sure was good to see him in Tempt the Devil.

  16. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 4:17 pm

    Oh, Marisa, you big tease! 😉

    I always enjoy doing the reviews too but even more, I love the chats after them. They cover such a wide range and everyone comes up with such interesting points. Anne Stuart’s heroes were definitely an inspiration for Kylemore – for me, particularly that thing of if everyone says he’s big and bad, he’d better BE big and bad! And also how that kiss her or kill her vibe really ratchets up the tension in the story!

  17. Maria Lokken
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 4:26 pm

    All I have to say is… Tempt the Devil… LOVE STORY alert! Passion alert! In for a fantabulous read alert!

    I’m sorry – don’t mean to make anyone jealous, but yes I read it. LOVED IT! Marisa and I fought over who would read it first – and I won! And it wasn’t because I am four minutes older – it was because I fight dirty. You see, I really am the big, bad ass hero with no redeemable qualities.

  18. Marisa
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 4:28 pm

    Maria – I have to admit it – even publicly – you are a bit, shall we say aggressive, when it comes to your books and favorite authors. It’s a good thing I like that about you.

  19. Maria Lokken
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 4:30 pm

    Miss Marisa – I may be aggressive – but I do share.

  20. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 4:31 pm

    See what I mean about triplets of you guys being SCARY???!!! Hey, thanks for the plug for Tempt. It WAS fun to revisit Verity and Kylemore in a small way and see what they’ve been up to.

  21. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 4:32 pm

    See, Maria? You’re redeemable! 😉

  22. Marisa
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 4:34 pm

    Oh, Anna we know we’re scary just with two of us – you should see when our older sister gets into the act. It’s frightening for everyone. And for some odd reason it really works for us.

    I did do a squeal when Verity and Klyemore entered the book – and then I did a huge old *sigh*. Thanks for that.

    Maria – yes, you do share. And you did make me dinner last night so I’m sticking to that story.

  23. heidenkind
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 5:49 pm

    Hi, Anna! I’ve been looking forward to your review all week; your reviews always lead me to great books. I couldn’t agree with you more on the Ice series… love them. The only one I haven’t read so far is Ice Storm–somehow it got lost in the shuffle in my tbr pile last year.

    I agree that Cold as Ice is a really good book. I absolutely loved Peter and Genevieve’s relationship–that’s when the series really took off for me. But my personal favorite is Ice Blue. OMG, Takashi is soooo sexy. And I loved going to Japan and reading about Summer interacting with the culture there. It was fascinating.

    The latest book reminded me very strongly of Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels–coltish young heroine, hero with questionable intentions, and a very elegantly executed plot. I devoured Mary Stewart books when I was younger, so that was a good thing as far as I was concerned. 🙂

  24. pambook
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 5:57 pm

    I have to dig into my TBR boxes and find her historicals buried in there. Black as Ice I liked a lot, Cold as Ice not as much, wasn’t crazy about Genevieve with Peter. Now I need to catch up with the rest of the series, especially Takashi’s story.

  25. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 7:16 pm

    Oh, Marisa, I must say I think the ending of TTD is one of my favorite bits! So glad it worked for you!

    Hey, Heidenkind, fantastic news that you’re picking up some great reads thanks to the recommendations. It’s always just one person’s opinion, of course – look at the people picking favorites out of the Ice series today! But it’s always fun to share books we’ve enjoyed. I love Takashi too – Ice Blue is my second fave, actually! I love the cross-cultural issues that are such a big part of that and the Japanese bits are so unusual in a romance novel. I’m not sure why it’s such a seldom-used setting. I agree with you about Fire and Ice reminding me of a romantic suspense of the golden age. I adored Mary Stewart when I was a teenager – I hadn’t picked up the similarities but you’re so right! The heroes in those books were always rather sinister in a very sexy kind of way 😉 And the heroine, Jilly, of F&I is in the mold of those gothic heroines I just adore. Hey, isn’t the scene in the hotel just the hottest thing out? Actually now I think of the MS connection, her stuff was always set in amazing locales that she really brought to life and I think there’s some of that in Fire and Ice too.

    Pambook, you should really enjoy Takashi’s story – that’s the one that got the RITA so clearly a lot of people thought it was brilliant. I saw somewhere she’s going to write a historical next. Yay! I love her romantic suspense but these deep, dark, alpha males really make a historical romance sing (well, scream and then sing perhaps!).

  26. heidenkind
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 7:59 pm

    Anna, that scene in the hotel was great! And you’re absolutely right about the exotic locales being such a strong element of MS’s novels–that must be why I was picking up on the connection between her books and F&I.

    I’ve been hoping to find more romance novels set in Japan, actually–thank god there’s anime. lol

  27. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 8:01 pm

    It’s not exactly a romance, Heidenkind, but did you read Memoirs of a Geisha? I thought it faded a bit towards the end but most of it is really great and full of fascinating details about life as a geisha.

  28. PJ
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 8:41 pm

    Anna, my RT magazine came today. CONGRATS on the TOP PICK for Tempt the Devil!

  29. PJ
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 8:43 pm

    I’ll have to recommend these books to my niece, if she hasn’t already read them. She loves romance fiction and all things Japanese.

  30. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 9:23 pm

    Hey, PJ, do you mind if I have a little public glow about that? How fabbo was that review? I read it and wanted to rush out and buy the book – and then remembered I’d written the darn thing! Apparently I got a Knight in Shining Silver Award too. Thanks for the congrats. I’ve been a bit shellshocked since I saw it a couple of days ago on the RT website. The Aussie branch of Avon liked it so much, they put bits of it on the cover! 😉

    Hey, romance and Japan? It’s hard to get the two together, you should definitely recommend these books. Although the Japanese connection doesn’t really start until book 3. Still, the first couple of books are a real suspense rollercoaster so she shouldn’t mind too much getting up to that stage!

  31. orannia
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 10:26 pm

    HI Anna! Thank you so much for the review! I haven’t read any of Anne Stuart’s books….

    The heroes are seriously smart and lethal. I mean, really, really lethal. Like, they’d just as soon kill you than f*ck you.

    … but after reading your review (and Kati’s comment on the heroes 🙂 I think I should rectify that ASAP….I like lethal heroes 🙂

  32. Maria Lokken
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 11:09 pm

    Anna – My RT magazine hasn’t arrived yet, but the TOP PICK is soooo well deserved!

    And – I also recommend Memoirs of a Geisha – it was a book I couldn’t stop reading. The film did the book NO justice.

  33. heidenkind
    on Nov 21st, 2008
    @ 11:33 pm

    Congrats on the top pick, Anna! I can’t wait to read Tempt the Devil (not all of us get arc’s–AHEM! 😉 ). It sounds great.

    No, I haven’t read Memoirs of a Geisha. Actually, I had the book, but then I saw the movie and it was so ridiculous I decided I was never going to read it. :/ Maybe I’ll give it another go, though.

  34. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 22nd, 2008
    @ 2:28 am

    Orannia, if you like lethal heroes, you’ll ADORE Anne Stuart’s books! And it’s not just her romantic suspense. Everything she writes features a man who’s slightly dangerous, even when she’s doing the lighthearted stuff. Adds great tension to her stories!

    Thanks, Maria. I’m so glad you enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha. I couldn’t put it down either (until probably the last 50 pages where it seemed to force an ending). But all the early stuff about her training and the cultural details like the kimonos, wow, utterly mesmerising. I didn’t see the movie. Imagined it would concentrate on the stuff I found less interesting.

    Thanks for the congrats, Heidenkind. A huge thrill! Sounds like I was right about the movie of MOAG. I love books that take me into a different world that I don’t know much about and this one certainly did that – and I enjoyed reading about it in contrast to the world of Regency courtesans as I’d started work on CTC by then. There were some strong similarities, for all the superficial differences.

  35. PJ
    on Nov 22nd, 2008
    @ 2:48 am

    Memoirs of a Geisha – loved the book, didn’t bother with the movie.

  36. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 22nd, 2008
    @ 2:59 am

    Another vote against the movie! Clearly I made the right choice. 😉 Actually I often find with books like that, it’s the supporting detail that makes it really fascinating. How you choose a kimono. The training of a geisha. How she selects her lovers, etc. And of course, that’s the stuff a movie would dump because it’s not action.

  37. pambook
    on Nov 22nd, 2008
    @ 3:20 pm

    Congrats on the Top Pick, Anna!

  38. Anna Campbell
    on Nov 22nd, 2008
    @ 3:41 pm

    Hey, thanks, Pambook! I grinned all day after I found out! 😉

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