“Bonne Femme” by AR Simmons
Publisher: Acorn Moon Press
Publication Date: June 19, 2013
Avg. Amazon Rating: 5 *
The Blurb (truncated):
Trust Betrayed and Dark Obsession
“Three people. Two former soldiers, each with a mission, each waging a campaign. At the center of their conflict is a vulnerable young woman, alone and far from home.
“Richard Carter has come back to Cartier trying to pull his life together, while Jill Belbenoit has come to finish her degree. He has seen her on campus, but doesn’t know her. When a former squadmate from Somalia, Mic Boyd, turns up unexpectedly and assumes a friendship that never was, Richard allows himself to fall into what he hopes will be only a brief association. The last thing he wants is a reminder of his tour in the famine-racked squalor of Africa…”
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Just a note: As I have stated in several other reviews, there are genrés which I don’t normally read because of certain life experiences I have endured during my time on this earth – crime novels are amongst those genrés. However, this story revolves around two former Marines – one of whom was ‘released’ from service under a General Discharge. Those of us who have have been married to (as I was) – or have experience with – a member of the Armed Forces who suffers from severe PTSD have unique insight and understanding to the mindset of either the protagonist, Richard, or the antagonist, Mic, in this book. Fortunately, my husband was a “Richard”, rather than a “Mic”.
My take on the story:
Richard Carter is basically a good and honourable man who became as entrenched in the mindset that “War is Hell” as any other combat veteran has. The horrors that he witnessed are not uncommon, and nor is his revulsion to those memories and diminished feelings of self-worth as a returning ‘warrior’. As part of his solution to trying to re-integrate as a civilian, he is pursuing an education in criminology at the local college.
While there, another student – a captivating young lady from France (Jill Belbenoit) – catches his eye. Convinced that she would not be interested in him, Richard pines for her at a distance. It is during one of his moments of distraction that a former squadmate from his deployment to Somalia shows up: Mic Boyd, whom Richard has always disliked on an instinctual level. Nonetheless, when he is approached, Richard accepts Mic’s invitation to join him for a beer at the local pub, just to ‘catch up on things’.
At about this point, the author inserts some of Richard’s more troubling memories of Somalia…and here, dear reader, is the first indication that something is very wrong, and extremely dark, about Mic.
Mic shows up on campus again, and this time notices Richard’s infatuation with Jill. Mic’s ensuing comments about women in general are another clue into his disturbing psyche. He adopts an almost competitive attitude about how easy it would be to have his way with Jill; he introduces himself (and Richard, as a sort of side-kick) and proceeds to seduce her. Despite his apparently low opinion of women in general, he has a certain ‘bad boy’ vibe which seems to attract them. Richard, of course, is chagrined when, very quickly, Mic and Jill become a couple.
It is only a matter of time that Jill breaks things off with Mic. We are not apprised of the reasons why until later in the story (although the reader is given a good idea of what those reasons likely were), only that Mic is not about to accept her decision; she finally turns to Richard to intervene. This does not go over well with Mic…and things only get worse from here. When Richard confronts him, Mic details the violence he will perpetrate on Jill…before he kills her.
Richard goes to Jill and tries to convince her just how seriously she should take the threat, but for some reason she simply will not believe Mic is that dangerous. She refuses Richard’s help in keeping her safe even though he pleads with her to accept him in a protector’s role. She insists that such extreme steps are unnecessary and nearly rebuffs him completely, even as the friend she has begun to regard him. Even so, the friendship continues, albeit tenuously.
Mic continues to taunt Richard with verbal images of what he has in store for Jill, until finally he (Richard) decides to take protective measures, whether Jill agrees or not. He would kidnap her and take her somewhere remote, isolated and uninhabited and keep her there until either she understood the danger, or the danger was past. He abducts her and carries her to the island of Bonne Femme.
And here I stop the summary, else I give it all away.
The way that Mr. Simmons paints images with his words is skillful to the point of being able to physically impact the reader. I cannot remember any book that I’ve read that instills such graphic images, without the verbiage to go with it. And even though there is the occasional point-of-view switch between the characters, it all flows smoothly. He has a way of easing those transitions not only by his talent with syntax and structure, but also by delineating between memories and internalized thoughts through the use of in-text formatting.
There are very few issues – non-issues, really – that I have with “Bonne Femme”. For one, the blurb introduces the three main characters as “Two former soldiers, each waging a campaign.” and “…a vulnerable young woman, alone and far from home.” In this, we are given a brief description of the protagonist, Richard, as a returned ‘soldier’ and Jill, as the potential victim, but there isn’t any hint of the darkness in the antagonist, Mic. If I were to rely strictly on the blurb, I’m not so sure that I would have chosen to read “Bonne Femme” unless Crime/Thriller was my usual reading genré. However, with the author’s talent for weaving suspense, I’m sure that he might be able to prickle our senses by adding even a single, ominous line to the blurb, should there ever be a 2nd Edition!
The other issue is the character of Jill, who just seemed a bit – confusing. She has a strong spirit, dogged determination, a highly developed moral sense and great intelligence…but seemed to have a significant lack of common sense, something like a cross between Erin Brockovich and Snow White. I LIKED her character, but sometimes I just wanted to slap her silly! Maybe a little bit more of that internalized thought process for why she refused to believe her life was seriously in danger?? (sorry, AR!)
I have followed the author, A.R. Simmons, for some time now; in my humble opinion, the fact that I was able to read this entire book (even though the criminal element of the story is very discomfiting to me) without skipping any pages at all is proof that here is one more author who knows what he’s doing.
I look forward to reading Book 2: “Cold Tears” and following up on Richard and Jill.