When my dog immediately ate the cover of this book, I thought it was a bad sign. Thankfully I was wrong and Guardians of Stone is a really fun, entertaining, and sexy foray into a new series and new author for me. I’m actually lamenting the loss of the cover because it’s hard to convince people to try a new book with teeth marks on the spine; no really, the dog LOVED it too. The review quote on the back is a perfect descriptor as “a cross between Indiana Jones and Stephanie Plum.” The book is nicely balanced with relic action scenes – searching catacomb bones for an ancient box amid deadly booby traps – and a romantic triangle between the female lead and two equally gorgeous and grumpy men. It’s a bit of a stretch so readers have to be willing to buy into the premise and suspend disbelief but it’s worth it with sharp writing, good dialogue, sensible if familiar characters, and an overall interesting plot that keeps the action moving and readers interested.
The premise begins with Kendall, a stunning woman with a sixth sense in finding things. She has a kind of clarevoyance/kind of psychic talent that gives her occasional helpful clues. Of course her talent is sketchy, unpredictable, and wacky so it’s anyone’s guess when the talent will manifest and how. Kendall works for the gorgeous, filthy rich, and reclusive Nathan. Nathan sends Kendall and a bodyguard/cohort – the equally gorgeous and grumpy Jake, a semi-mercenary with a past and penchant for sexual innuendo – off to find an ancient and evil box before the bad guys can get it and kill both Kendall and Jake. Sounds fun!
The plot itself is decent as long as you can suspend disbelief. No normal, sane person would ever pull the stunts here, let alone with the never ending massive amounts of money being used, so readers have to being willing to overlook the typical treks into creepy, haunted castles at night where no one would ever find them. Thankfully the writing holds a lot of humor and a steady moving pace so the antics are interesting without ever getting too ridiculous or over the top. The two leads tend to fumble their way around more than anything and escape with clever thinking and quick reflexes. The mystery of the box is actually more interesting as the book develops and sets up a very nice continuation for further books.
Beyond the relic hunting actions, the characterization and dialogue mostly work. The characters are pretty familiar from other books in the genre and doesn’t deviate much from expected generalizations. Kendall is gorgeous but stubborn, often running off on her own but is capable without too many “too stupid to live” moments. Jake is the expected gruff but caring bodyguard, determined to keep her alive and sleep with her. The two butt heads in a predictable way but their chemistry feels real and there is a lot of humor and sexual tension that just plain works. Nathan is much less developed, a mysterious billionaire, but I like where the series is going with him and am very interested to see what happens next.
The ending is decent, though there is some of the obvious and eye-rolling villain gloating. I hate when the bad guy tells everything and explains every last dangling thread right before the end. Up to that point I thought the author and writing did a good job of balancing information with reality. The reader frequently knows more than the characters themselves, which can be frustrating when the characters repeatedly insist person X is responsible when the reader knows person X is dead for example, but for the most part the book handles these situations well. The information dump at the end from the point of a gun is expected but disappointing all the same, especially since the book then ends on a down note.
Despite the problem at the end, GoS is a fun beginning book to a series. It’s entertaining, easy to read and the pages fly by with a consistent pace. There are some obvious tropes at work from the characterization to the love triangle to the plot devices but I could overlook any frustrations due to the descriptive writing, quick dialogue and overall fun experience. I’d recommend this to readers who like a dash of romantic tension amid globe trotting sleuthing.