Review: At the Clearest Sensation by M.L. Buchman

Review: At the Clearest Sensation by M.L. BuchmanAt the Clearest Sensation (ShadowForce: Psi #4) by M L Buchman
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, paranormal, romantic suspense
Series: ShadowForce: Psi #4
Pages: 218
Published by Buchman Bookworks on September 28, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Hollywood star Isobel Manella leads a charmed life in many ways: interesting roles, surrounded by friends and family, and the ability to sense precisely what those around her are feeling. Her empathic skills help her and her team shine.

Sailor and film handyman Devlin Jones enjoys the job niche he's created along Seattle's waterfront. His skills as a Jack of all trades keeps him fed, companionship can always be found, and his beloved Dragon sailboat lies moored just outside his back door.

However, when Devlin takes Isobel on an evening sail, he brings aboard far more trouble than he's ever faced before. As an assistant on her upcoming film, he thought he could just sail through the gig. Little did he know she'd completely change the uncharted course of his future.

My Review:

This was a terrific wrap up to a marvelous series. It was a great blend of action, adventure, romance and suspense and tied the entire ShadowForce: Psi series up with a neat little – if slightly bloodied – bow.

Not that I don’t expect to see some of these characters again, as side characters or walk-ons in one of this author’s future series, because I certainly do. He does that, after all, and it’s always lovely to see how people are doing.

But At the Clearest Sensation definitely wraps up the story of this very “special” group. A story that began last summer with At the Slightest Sound and continued through At the Quietest Word and At the Merest Glance to make a bootleg turn and threshold brake into its happy ending for everyone involved in the entire series.

As much as At the Clearest Sensation closes out the entire series, it is also, definitely, primarily about the romance between unofficial team leader Isobel Manella and her current movie’s location expert, Devlin Jones.

Because this series simply couldn’t close without Isobel finding her HEA.

That’s not where the story begins. Where it begins is with Isobel feeling, not like a third-wheel in her brother’s marriage with her best friend (At the Quietest Word, or a fifth-wheel to not just that marriage but her teammate Jesse’s marriage to one of brother Roberto’s fellow ex-Deltas (At the Slightest Sound), but a seventh-wheel to both of those relationships plus the newest HEA between her bestie’s stepbrother Anton and his expert-tracker fiance Kate (At the Merest Glance).

Everyone’s happy, and Isobel is happy for all of them. But as the empathic member of their Psi group, all that happy is more than a bit overwhelming to someone who isn’t sure she’ll ever have the time to find hers.

At least not until Devlin whisks her away for a quiet sail around Puget Sound in his Dragon sailboat. For one evening, Isobel is just “Belle”, and not either the movie star or the leader of the elite ShadowForce. An illusion that nearly shatters the next morning when she discovers that the charming stranger who took her sailing is actually part of the movie crew that she has to “boss” as executive producer and co-director.

But Devlin, the one person whose emotions Isobel can’t read, is able to read Isobel and her team like a book. His “school of hard knocks” education allows him to observe all the little “tells” that reveal that Isobel and her team are something just a bit outside the ordinary.

He’s also all too aware that even in the tightest group, everyone needs someone who is first and foremost in their corner. He’s all ready to be that for Isobel, even before a crazed killer sets his sights on the only light that shines in his own personal darkness.

Escape Rating A-: That grade is kind of for this book and kind of for the series as a whole, because the ShadowForce: Psi series reads like a single story broken into four reading-bite-sized parts. This is one where the emotional payoff for Isobel’s story isn’t complete unless you’ve read from the beginning.

But since the individual parts are short and sweet with just the right touch of danger and suspense, the series makes for a great little binge read.

This series is a mixture of action adventure and romantic suspense, and does an excellent job on both sides of that rather tricky equation. It’s also very much a romance of equals, something that is difficult to do well – but it is one of the hallmarks of this author’s writing. It’s a big part of what I read him FOR.

This entry in the series combines movie-making, stunt-driving, found family, adventure, suspense and Seattle into a satisfying romance that puts the heroine in just the right amount of danger AND lets her be part of her own rescue. Isobel is part of a team, and all of the team participates in that rescue, but she is never a damsel in distress.

As someone who lived in Seattle for a few years, the way that the characters toured so much of the city while scouting locations for the film shoot read like the place I knew – although I’m grateful I moved away just before the demolition of the old Alaskan Way Viaduct began. Which created a traffic nightmare while it was going on.

I loved watching Isobel and Devlin fall for each other, in spite of both of their best intentions not to get serious. Their romance, although it doesn’t take a lot of days, still managed to take up enough space in the story to allow both the reader and the characters to feel it happen.

At the same time, the resolution of the suspense part of the story felt a bit abrupt, but on the other hand I can’t see how it could have been any other way. And I’m very glad that Isobel wasn’t kidnapped or worse. She needed to rescue herself, not BE rescued, because that’s not who the character is.

And the heroine in jeopardy plot is seriously old and stale, while this book definitely is not. But now that the ShadowForce is all wrapped up, I can’t wait to see what adventures this author will take me on next!

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