Pros: Great military “feel”; wonderful characters; plenty of action
Cons: None for me
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Review copy (uncorrected proof) courtesy of Penguin Group.
Expected publication date: April 7, 2009.
It’s amazing the strange things that happen in this household. Just two days ago I was sitting on the couch with a stack of three books next to me—all books I’ve read and was planning on reviewing—when one of my cats decided that would be the perfect time to hurl, all over the end of the stack. I decided I’d rather have water-damaged books than puke-damaged books, so I had to wash them and give them a couple days to dry before reviewing them. (I like to have the copy of the book in hand when I review it, in case I want to quote anything or refresh my memory on any details.) As a result I’m now about four reviews in the hole, and trying desperately to keep my books out of reach of the cats! (A difficult task when you never seem to have quite enough bookshelves.) The worst part? One of the books he tagged was one I hadn’t read yet and was looking forward to, and another was one I thought our library would like to have when I was done with it. Thankfully, in the case of Defender, it was an uncorrected proof—which means I’ll still get an undamaged copy later! Since this is one book I’d like to keep, I was grateful to said cat for that small blessing. 😉
Anyway. On to the details of Catherine Mann’s Defender.
(…Half an hour later, after said cat hopped up on my lap and threw himself, purring, at my shoulder…)
Pilot Jimmy Gage is playing escort to a bunch of USO performers as part of his cover while he and his team try to rescue a kidnapped American serviceman and friend. All of his team’s plans go awry, however, when the boat the performers are on goes down in flames after an explosion. He ends up rescuing lovely Chloe Nelson, and it’s decided that protecting the performers would aid in their assignment. The two of them get off on the wrong foot, however, and he’d rather be anywhere else than babysitting a temperamental civilian.
The kidnapping turns out to be far more than an isolated event, orchestrated by a resourceful and sadistic woman who seems to be targeting the USO performers as well for some reason. Gage’s team has to find their comrade before Marta Surac can torture any secrets out of his head… or kill him for failing to divulge them. They must figure out who’s on their side and who’s betraying them. And they have to keep the USO performers safe—all while Gage finds himself developing unexpected, and unwanted, feelings for Chloe.
Contrary to the impression the back of the book left me with, Chloe is hardly your stereotypical scantily-clad sequin-bedecked dancer (thankfully!). She’s an orchestra conductor who impulsively joined in the tour as a performer’s backup dancer as a kind of thank-you to the servicewoman whose kidney saved Chloe’s life. Sure, she’s pretty, but she’s also a geek at heart, sarcastic and prone to making Star Trek references. She’s intelligent, resourceful, and has plenty of spine—which will definitely be necessary as she gets dragged into events in Turkey. She soon finds herself dealing with a suicide bombing, an attempted kidnapping of another performer… not to mention her own confusing feelings for Gage.
As for Gage, he’s focused on rescuing his friend and sure as hell doesn’t want even a moment’s distraction from Chloe—but somehow they keep getting thrust together, and before long he isn’t so sure he minds. If nothing else she seems to have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and in a land of suicide bombings and kidnappings, that means someone needs to look out for her.
There’s plenty of action in this book, and plots galore. The secondary characters get a lot more attention than in many romance novels, such as Agent Mike Nunez, who has an unusual skill for “melting” into his cover, and is working his way into the confidence of the bad guys. He has his own difficulties to work out as he finds himself unexpectedly falling for Marta Surac’s niece, Anya, who might well be helping her aunt.
I don’t know enough about the military to be able to adequately judge the realism of the details. However, I will say this. They aren’t glossed over like those you’ll find in many action books—Ms. Mann dives right into them. As a result, to someone who isn’t in the know they feel much more “right” than the details in most such novels. Also, according to her bio Ms. Mann’s husband is a “military flyboy,” so I expect she has reason to get her details right!
The action is tense and credible. The characters are interesting and fun, with enjoyable dialogue. The sex and romance are hot and sweet. All told, this is a great novel!
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