What's not working for me is the contrast in tones.
Here is how the book begins:
"It's dark in that awful way that allows you to make out objects but not the black spaces behind them. My breathing comes ragged from exertion and fear. The only person I trust in the world lies on the floor beside me. I lean into him and hear that he's still breathing but it's shallow and hard won. He's hurt, I know. But I can't see how badly. I whisper his name in his ear but he doesn't respond. I feel his body but there's no blood that I can tell. The sound of his body hitting the floor minutes before was the worst thing I've ever heard."
And the chapter ends:
"Six," he whispers.
"You have six bullets left."
Now aside from the fact that my fingers wanted to stick in some commas when I typed that first paragraph, I think that's a great beginning. It promises grit, suspense, betrayal, and potentially great loss.
So I think I know what I'm getting.
Then the book goes back in time. The main character meets her new neighbor. She has exchanged no more than a dozen words with him.
Then she looks into his eyes and thinks,
"I'll tell you something about myself. I can get my head turned by a good-looking buy as much as the next girl. But sexy doesn't impress me. Smart impresses me; strength of character impresses me. But most of all, I'm impressed by kindness. Kindness, I think, comes from learning hard lessons well, for falling and picking yourself up. It comes from surviving failure and loss. It implies an understanding of the human condition, forgives its many flaws and quirks. When I see that in someone, it fills me with admiration. I saw it in him. His eyes, a deep brown, almost black, heavily lidded with dark lashes, made me want to confess all my sins and secrets and do penance in his arms."
Here's what I think when I read this:
- "Do penance in his arms?" What, have I wandered into a romance novel?
- She can look into someone's eyes and see intelligence, strength of character and kindness? What, is she clairvoyant?
- And she can tell that he survived failure and loss? Just by looking? Or is she thinking hm, he's a guy in his 30s, of course he's survived failure and loss.
- Show, don't tell. And this is all telling.
- This long paragraph with no action slows things down.
- What happened to my promised grit, betrayal and suspense? Now I've got a new promise, and it's all about doing penance in some hunk's arms.
It's probably a fine book for someone else. For me, it isn't working.