Note: This is the fourth book in Meredith Wild’s Hacker series. The first book in the series is Hardwired. If you haven’t read the first three books, there will inevitably be spoilers below.
Hard Limit by Meredith Wild (2014)
I have to be honest. I had a really difficult time putting this book down and read it in two sittings. I think it’s because beneath all the trappings and conventions of this genre, I just like following Erica and Blake’s story. I like them as characters and though everything that happens to them is completely melodramatic and over the top, I remain willing to suspend my disbelief and go along for the wild and crazy ride. Kind of like Olivia and Fitz, but let me not digress. If you have read the first three books in this series (Hardwired, Hardpressed, and Hardline) I’m sure you’ll like the fourth installment. It may be the best one of the series so far.
The book starts wonderfully–with a prologue that is told from Blake’s point-of-view and that involves events that happen two weeks after where chapter one begins. As far as I can remember, this is the first and only look we’ve had at him and his relationship with Erica from his own point-of-view. I wanted more, but at the same time I appreciate that Wild only gives us this brief tease and immediately and firmly returns to telling the story from Erica’s first-person point-of-view. Once the first chapter starts, the action, the tension and the conflict don’t stop. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t put the book down. It’s tightly plotted, nothing to distract away from what’s happening, and there is a lot happening in this book. Erica and Blake are planning to be married soon. The partnership Erica made with Alex Huntington in the previous installment is set to take a few twists and turns. Sophia returns and another aspect of Blake’s past–both with her and in the aftermath of their breakup–are revealed and it is this part of the plot that generates continued tension and conflict between Erica and Blake. Daniel also comes back, and the sort-of cliffhanger ending of third installment where we learn about who has revealed the relationship between Erica and Daniel to the media comes to fruition and gets tied up by the end of the book. Though the story is told from Erica’s point-of-view, Blake continues to be drawn and developed more deeply as a character–which is to say that unlike other series within this genre, he’s not a cardboard character without depth and whose arc seems artificial and contrived at best. I like him, and he’s one of the reasons I have remained invested in this series. To lesser degrees, the same can be said of other members of the supporting cast, particularly Marie (Erica’s surrogate mother) and Daniel. A lot of this story revolves around the question of family, how families function or are dysfunctional, and the ties that bind families together. The story also flirts with the ideas of betrayal and loyalty and how we come to realize who we can and cannot trust. I know what you’re thinking–quite philosophical words about a romance novel, but I’m just calling it as I see it. I’ve read a lot of copycats that weren’t worth the time I spent reading them, and in my opinion it’s hard to write this kind of romance with elements of suspense and do it well and in a way that isn’t just about how how the sex scenes are. Which, if you’re wondering, the sex scenes are really hot (and explicit, so if you don’t want that in your fiction, this series isn’t going to be for you).
The end of the book sets up the final novel in the series, Hard Love. While some subplots within the series as a whole have been resolved, there’s still the issue of Trevor–Blake’s hacker nemesis–to be resolved, and I won’t be surprised to see a final showdown involving Sophia. The final chapter of the Hard Limit finds Erica and Blake flying away from Boston to their honeymoon destination. I’m looking forward to the final book but I’ll also be sad when I’ve gotten to the end because then it’ll be over. Still, I’ve enjoyed every single book in this series and definitely recommend it if you like your romance with a little edge, a little suspense, and well-developed characters.