The Guardian: Spoilers ahoy, because I need to get things off my chest

The Ultimatum by Karen Robards Book review

What is this about?: Bianca is a thief, the kind that gets paid in the millions for everything she steals. Everything she knows she’s learned from her father, Richard, a master thief in his own right, who has never been caught and hidden his identity from the authorities for 20 years. And then everything goes wrong on a job, and Richard is gets blown up in a boat… or is he? It doesn’t matter, his clients have come knocking with evidence of who he really is and are threatening to out him to the police – which would lead them straight to her.

What else is this about?: The ties that bind, and what makes a family. Sadly, the book fumbles badly in this respect.

Blurb

Thief. Manipulator. Con artist. Call it what you will—Bianca St. Ives is the best in the business. 

Growing up, Bianca St. Ives knew she was different from all her friends. Instead of playing hopscotch or combing her dolls’ hair, she studied martial arts with sensei masters and dismantled explosives with special-ops retirees. Her father prepped her well to carry on the family business. Now a striking beauty with fierce skills, the prodigy has surpassed the master.

She’s known as the Guardian. Running a multinational firm with her father, she makes a living swindling con men out of money they stole—and she’s damn good at it. She does things on her own terms. But her latest gig had a little hiccup—if you count two hundred million dollars and top secret government documents going missing as little. Her father also died on the mission. The thing is, the US government doesn’t believe he’s really dead. They’ll stop at nothing to capture Richard St. Ives, a high-value target and someone who has been on most-wanted lists all over the world for over two decades, and they mean to use Bianca as bait. With only a fellow criminal for backup and her life on the line, it’s up to Bianca to uncover the terrifying truth behind what really happened…and set it right, before it’s too late.

Stars: 3ish. It’s complicated.

Before you go any further, here’s a spoiler warning for you, because I had some issues with things, and I’m curious as to what people think.

So, The Ultimatum opens in Bahrain, where Bianca and her father and a team are planning the heist to end all heists and to make off with a ton of money… except the money isn’t there, which means Bianca is left to make an escape, along with Doc, one of her team-mates to a boat where her father is waiting – their escape plan.

What proceeds is a very long, long escape plan in which Bianca out-manoeuvres security, crawls through an air duct and manages to find a guy, while in garters as I recall, and kiss him passionately before tasering him.

While reading/listening to this, I found myself thinking how much like James Bond this scene was, and how I found it hard to believe she would do that – and it occurred to me I liked James Bond doing these things, so why not Bianca?

And then it clicked exactly what I was thinking and I was promptly ashamed of myself. 

Bianca is badass, she owns it, and she does it well – from that point on, I wanted more of that, and if I had to slog through a distracting romance – the romance per say I had no issue with, it’s the pacing that made these sorts of scenes just go on and on and on when there was action to be getting to that didn’t sit well with me – I would do it.

After her father’s death, Bianca starts to build a normal life for herself, before one of her father’s former clients sends him an email with a job, and Bianca is drawn back into that life to protect herself, and her father’s new family – his wife and child. Having successfully kept his real identity secret for so long, Richard’s new family have no idea who he was.

So Bianca agrees to a job, and plans some spectacular heists, and is generally superemely cool in every situation…

Yeah, they went there

….And then, the book reveals all Bianca’s badassness? Is because she’s a super-soldier.

So, our trained thief, with a master thief for a father, is a super-soldier, kind of knocked the glee from me looking back at every scene she beat the crap out of someone, or was planning two steps ahead of everyone else and like I said was being James Bond levels of glorious bad-assness.

I was so disappointed.

This reveal comes at the end of the book, after which I’ve cheered Bianca through trying to steal a prototype to ensure the safety of her father’s new wife and daughter. She has never met them, and they don’t know about her, and she’s doing it for her father. The authorities may believe he’s still alive, she may be walking into a trap stealing this prototype, but to ensure their safety, she’ll do it.

This heist is planned meticulously with Doc, and after some seriously brilliant action scenes – like I stopped what I was doing, and listening, it was that good – she accomplishes her mission. Yet all of that became tinged by the end by the fact that she was created to be a super-soldier, to be that badass.

Why couldn’t she be the badass, normal woman, trained by her master thief father?

And yeah, that leads me to the other spoiler

Her father isn’t her father. He’s the spy that stole her while he was trying to escape his Name-Agency Masters and brought her up as his daughter. And, no he’s not dead, but it struck me that when your MC has a better, more emotional relationship in her head with her father, than when he’s standing right in front of her, there are  some serious issues with the book.

Yes, they might have been running for their lives for the moment, but there was time – they may not have been blood, but they were family by all accounts, and the book makes it clear that despite their issues Bianca loved him – that much was clear. But she immediately stopped calling him Dad, and that was it.

Another level of disappointment. However, Richard is back in the next in this series, so there’s every chance this is going to be explored further.

It’s just that here, with such a brilliant blurb, and a book that reads like the best heist ever, with a woman that is amazing — and the most EPIC FINAL SCENE EVER — these two things cut the wind from my sails a lot by the end.

I dunno, am I overthinking this? I mean the action and Bianca deserved that three, but the rest just killed my interest in this series (for now. Maybe).

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