Book Review: Changing the Rules by Catherine Bybee
As the first in a new series, there’s a bit of a problem here in that you apparently have to have read TWO other series by the author to understand the backstory of the heroine, Claire, who was rescued at 18 from some sort of elite German boarding school in the business of producing spy-assassins along with her best friend Jax. That was six years ago; Cooper Lockman at the time was in his mid-twenties and knew he had no business being attracted to Claire. Accepting an assignment in Europe, he left, but couldn’t put her out of his mind.
Now Cooper is back and he and Claire (and Jax) are going undercover in high school, trying to find out the who, how and why of several girls who have disappeared and later found to have been sex trafficked. Claire’s in as a student, Cooper a substitute teacher, so it’s crucial they keep any feelings they might be developing for each other strictly on the back burner. Which is, because this is a romance after all, pretty much impossible.
I absolutely loved Claire as a heroine; she kicks ass and takes no prisoners, including calling Cooper out when he starts being a fool. To his credit, he never tries to wrap her in cotton wool, a pet hate of mine in romantic suspenses; he trusts her to use her skills appropriately to get her part of the job done.
What I didn’t get here was all that much of a read on Cooper. Maybe his backstory is in other books by this author, but we are told almost nothing about him here. Barely a hint of what he’s been doing in Europe for six years, even less about who he was before that and where he came from, and as a hero therefore he was unfortunately something of a cipher, and I found it hard to understand why Claire fell for him. I’m not a big fan of the ‘older guy waiting for the heroine to grow up to make his move’ plotline anyway as it has some icky undertones for me, and not really getting to know Cooper as a person made that worse.
The plot is intriguing - and tragic, with the author having done plenty of research underpinning her work, the confronting reality that young women are trafficked out of American high schools every day something that’s not shied away from. Overall this is a good read, but I do believe first-in-series books should not require you to have read other entire series to understand backstory, and Cooper’s lack of characterisation means I was never going to give this five stars anyway. Four stars, because Catherine Bybee knows how to tell a good suspense, but I needed better backstory for Cooper in particular.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.