The Ultimatum

Karen Robards
The Ultimatum
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Brilliance Audio
Release Date
June 2017
Book 1 of The Guardian
Romantic Suspense/Mystery

Thief. Manipulator. Con artist. Call it what you will—Bianca St. Ives is the best in the business.

Growing up, Bianca St. Ives knew she was different from all her friends. Instead of playing hopscotch or combing her dolls' hair, she studied martial arts with sensei masters and dismantled explosives with special-ops retirees. Her father prepped her well to carry on the family business. Now a striking beauty with fierce skills, the prodigy has surpassed the master.

She's known as the Guardian. Running a multinational firm with her father, she makes a living swindling con men out of money they stole—and she's damn good at it. She does things on her own terms. But her latest gig had a little hiccup—if you count two hundred million dollars and top secret government documents going missing as little. Her father also died on the mission. The thing is, the US government doesn't believe he's really dead. They'll stop at nothing to capture Richard St. Ives, a high-value target and someone who has been on most-wanted lists all over the world for over two decades, and they mean to use Bianca as bait. With only a fellow criminal for backup and her life on the line, it's up to Bianca to uncover the terrifying truth behind what really happened...and set it right, before it's too late.

Book Review by BJ (reviewer)
Dec 05, 2017   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
79 people found the following review helpful
4.5 "Super Soldier Heroine" Stars for the story and 5 stars for the narration.

What an engaging listen! I absolutely loved the suspense and powerful, super talented heroine who can give most superheroes a run for their money (think of her as a feminine version of MacGyver--the late 1980s and early 1990s hit TV show--or Sidney Bristow from the 2000s hit TV show, Alias). Amazingly, as many books as I have read or listened to by Ms. Robards, she never ceases to surprise me with her creativity and ability to pen completely different stories with no mold.

If you love suspense this is a must listen. However, as Ms. Robards is known for her romantic suspense titles, I must caution listeners that this is not a traditional romantic suspense title. While there are threads of romantic elements weaved in--it seems like those threads are primarily intended for future installments--as no real romance occurs in this book.

Bianca St. Ives, whose nickname is the "Guardian", has never lived a conventional life. As a small child she was taught what can best be described as spy skills rather be allowed to play normal children's games. As an adult she, along with her father, and a group of others run an organization where they help recover money and priceless objects from thieves. The more complicated and dangerous an operation the better.

On one such mission, however, Bianca's life is turned upside down when she believes her father is killed by an explosive. Unfortunately, however, the US government is convinced this is another one of her father's tricks and they are blackmailing Bianca to determine his whereabouts. On this fateful mission Bianca also meets an agent who she shares an intimate moment with before she turns it around to her advantage. Nonetheless there is the beginnings of something more there and their subsequent meetings are equally charged--however, the agent is also under the impression that her father is still alive, and wants her cooperation to turn him in.

What will Bianca do? Just what is the truth?

Julia Whelan delivers a marvelous narration. Her voice is perfectly suited to bring the calculated and unshakable Bianca to life. Moreover, Ms. Whelan is able to deliver equally believable male characters by deepening her voice. In fact, she gives each character their own unique sound--with older characters sounding older and even being able to deliver a convincing young girl's voice. She also produces genuine American and English accents and shifts back and forth seamlessly between the two.

I also really enjoyed Ms. Whelan's ability to pace her delivery for optimal enjoyment. Adding an edge of danger to the suspense scenes, and generally timing her delivery so that the listener can just sit back and enjoy the story.

All in all, suspense lovers will be both intrigued and entertained by THE ULTIMATUM. Please note though that this book ends in a slight cliffhanger, so you will definitely want to pick up book 2, The Moscow Deception, which will continue Bianca's story and is scheduled to be released in 2018.
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