No Souvenirs by K. A. Mitchell
A vacation fling. No complications. No connections. And no regrets.
Trauma surgeon Jae Sun Kim has just lost the job he wanted more than anything else in his life. Looking for a way to hit the reset button, he takes a scuba vacation. He didn’t plan on seasickness, or a dive master who is sex-on-the-beach personified.
Shane McCormack’s tendency to drift away from complicated situations has landed him a job as a dive master in Belize, which isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. But with the big three-oh looming, asking his parents to bail him out again isn’t an option. The job isn’t without its perks, though, and as soon as he figures a way to keep that hot but arrogant ass of a doctor from tossing his cookies over the side of the boat, he plans to flirt the control freak out of his brittle shell.
The close quarters on the ship generate more heat than either expects, but a vacation fling is all that’s in the plans. An unexpected adventure leaves them changed in ways that make it impossible to go back to their old lives. The risks they’ll both have to take could leave them with nothing but more scars, or the best souvenir of all.
[Naked chests. I didn’t even notice the cover to be honest so bland.]
KA Mitchell has a pretty devoted following and her writing is an easy explanation for why. This offering fits well with the backlist as a solid story but not the best. No Souvenirs starts poorly with a sluggish beginning, too much sex and not enough plot, but soon picks up with trademark great writing and breathes life into the somewhat anemic characters to finish with a strong ending. The beginning is difficult to get into as the plot limps along, the characters have sex but rarely speak, and the setting is almost lost but stick with it as the story picks up considerably at the halfway mark and zips along to a delightful and romantic ending. It’s unfortunate that the story is so uneven and makes it a difficult one to re-read but at the end, I was glad I read it.
The story picks up with Jae Sun Kim, the resident doctor from Collision Course and friend of Aaron and Joey. Although to be honest, I didn’t remember who this was until Joey and Aaron make a physical appearance in the second half of the book and I remembered the connection with the previous book. This definitely helps as I suddenly remembered the prickly doctor and understood the added layers and depth to the man presented. However the story is about Kim as he takes an unexpected vacation when his fellowship falls through. Hoping to get away from the stress and panic of what to do with his life, Kim decides on diving in Belize. However, he still can’t stand people and even more so the divemaster with a Texas drawl, Shane. Yet the two are thrown together in a life or death situation that cements their connection.
The plot itself is good with a lot of action and character development in the second half. The first part of the book though is clumsy and lumbers sluggishly through a confusing explanation of why Kim is on vacation while seeming to force the chemistry between Shane and Kim. The tropical setting of Belize is not translated well at all and the vibrancy of the location is not well described. The various dives are quick and forgettable even as the story infuses a lot of diving terms all throughout the story so you never forget it’s a factor. In between this there is a lot of sex between Shane and Kim that offers little to either man or the story except an underlying theme of the sexual dynamics between them. The first half of the story felt boring and forced as the two men engage in sex scene after sex scene while inanely bantering. The turn at about halfway is another obvious story manipulation but not horrible since the pace picks up considerably. Here the two must work together to survive and the strong will of Kim is shown instead of just a prickly asshole. His slight panic and fear humanize the man who has shown very few likable characteristics up until now.
At this point, the book turns and becomes absorbing, interesting, and totally engaging. The dynamic between Kim and Shane is filled with tension as they rarely communicate verbally. This causes some problems but the sexual chemistry becomes more natural and electric. Although the action slows down, the pace continues to move along quickly as the relationship becomes the focus and the strength of Mitchell’s writing comes across very well. The characters become more defined and move beyond pre-set stereotypes to include subtly and depth. The relationship intensity also picks up a notch as the two men struggle with a happy ending. Surprisingly the setting of Kim’s small house in Florida comes alive much more than tropical Belize.
The characters end up as fully three dimensional with strengths and weaknesses. Their relationship is likely to be interesting and dynamic for a long time to come, which continues to make them interesting characters on their own and together. The slow first half is overtaken with a strong finish and I almost wish the two had found another way to meet. The brief cameos of Aaron and Joey are delightful and fun to see from another point of view – usually Shane’s – making them a great touch. The choice of alternating third person point of view from Kim and Shane is effective, although sometimes seems to chose the wrong POV leaving the reader in the dark too much, but mostly well done. Overall despite the bad start, the ending is worth hanging in there for a good story. Fans of the author are likely to forgive the beginning and focus on the strengths of the story and great characters.
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