One of the hallmarks of New Adult romance is often the dark,
angst-ridden backgrounds of its protagonists, hidden pasts that continue to
haunt their presents. Four Seconds to
Lose, the third installment in K.A. Tucker’s loosely linked Ten Tiny Breaths series, certainly has
its fair share of angst and mystery.
heroine, currently calling herself Charlie Rourke, has been sent by her drug
kingpin step father to Miami instead of being allowed to begin her freshman
year at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. We gradually discover (alongside
Charlie) that she is expected to facilitate exchanges of large amounts of
heroin, no questions asked. Since her mother died when she was 8 years old, her
step father is the only family she has ever known, but his love for her is
revealed to have come at a price. Determined to save enough money to create a
new identity for herself and escape her step father’s clutches, Charlie takes a
job working as a stripper.
former underground boxing champion and the child of a drug dealer and a brothel
madam, runs the strip club where Charlie works like it’s a nonprofit
organization for struggling young women. He is determined to make up for what
he perceives is his failure to protect his 16 year old sister ten years before,
when she was murdered alongside his parents in a drug dispute. He keeps to
himself and never watches his exotic dancers, only interacting with them if
they need tutoring to pass their GED exam or a safer place to stay.
Conveniently, Cain owns an apartment building where most of his dancers live,
purchased with money he made betting on and fighting in underground boxing
matches. His savior complex is tempered
by his dark past, wry sense of humor, and friendship with Nate, his head of
security. Formerly a scrawny kid who Cain protected on the streets, Nate is now
a silent giant who serves as an interesting secondary character.
and Charlie circle each other, desperate not to become involved but unable to
ignore their blistering chemistry (Cain even watches Charlie dance each night),
the plot moves along at a satisfyingly brisk pace. Charlie gets dragged deeper
into her step father’s underworld, even as she tries to escape it, and Cain
wrestles with the demons of his illicit past and Charlie’s resemblance to a
stripper he failed to protect at his previous club.
characters are well-drawn, and their backgrounds are traumatic enough that they
earn their angst, so their moments of self-sacrifice meant to protect each
other seem reasonable. But Four Seconds to
Lose has more going for it than extreme melodrama. The relationship
between Cain and Charlie is sweet despite its potentially tawdry beginnings and
becomes a haven from the everyday struggles of their lives. Cain, in
particular, is ready to close his strip club but worries about what would
happen to his flock of strippers without him. Watching Cain and Charlie slowly
learn to trust each other, against all odds and with every reason not to, is compelling.
Four Seconds to
Lose combines all of the
hallmarks of the New Adult genre to great effect, balancing angst, trauma,
romance, and humor to create a deeply emotional love story. The plot’s twists
and turns will satisfy readers looking for their romances served with an extra
helping of strife.
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