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Cindy Gerard is a new author for me and I came across this book in a charity shop and being quite taken with the back cover blurb which hailed the novel as 'a rollercoaster ride of action...' I stumped up my 50p expecting a thrilling read. Wrong!
Nine months after her escape from terrorists who had abducted and held her captive, journalist Jenna McMillan is back in Buenos Aires to interview Maxim, an Argentine billionaire who has his fingers in some rather shady pies. On her first day in the city and before she has a chance to meet up with the elusive Maxim, Jenna is almost blown up by a terrorist bomb and is once again rescued by Gabe Jones, a member of a security outfit, Black Ops Inc, and the man who had previously freed her from captivity. Now forced to work together, Jenna finds herself on the run with Gabe and falling for a man who seems to want nothing more than to see the back of her.
I have to confess that before the first chapter was over, I'd realised that this book was less of a thriller than I'd anticipated. Jenna, our heroine, is supposed to be a hard-bitten journalist who has visited various war torn regions of the world and yet she's already behaving more like someone out of a Mills & Boon romance rather than Kate Adey. I gritted my teeth, however, and continued to read. After all, it might get better.
All the while I was reading this novel, I had the feeling I'd read the story before. The plot, the action, even the characters all seemed very familiar. I actually hadn't read the book before but it follows such a well trodden path as to make it seem so. This is particularly the case with the male military types in the story, all of whom could have stepped out of the pages of any other romance featuring US Navy SEALs or Marines.
That's not to say it's a totally bad book because it has its moments but I think this is more likely to appeal to an American reader than a Brit, not least because of its very gung ho attitude with regard to the USA. It's very much on the lines of America is the only country in the world which upholds democracy and freedom, something of a hard-to-swallow concept when one looks at the mess US intervention invariably leaves in its wake.
Politics aside, this book is basically a romance and the political shenanigans are simply window dressing. The romantic elements aren't much easier to accept, however. Jenna is a journalist in name only and is about as realistic as Lois Lane and Gabe, our US marine turned private security operative (aka mercenary) spends most of the book scowling at the lady journo, except when they're bonking. This is one of those I-hate-you-but-I-love-you romances with a pretty threadbare and unrealistic plot.
Neither of these characters come across as being particularly appealing. She's the wimpiest journalist you're ever likely to encounter and he's nauseatingly military with an equally nauseating nickname, Archangel (because his name is Gabriel, get it?) who is pitted against, who else but a baddy called El Diablo. Could it get much cornier. In a word, Yes!!
At the centre of the flimsy plot is this Machiavellian El Diablo character with an unexplained axe to grind. Just to emphasise how wicked he is, we learn that his favourite pastime is poisoning his pet lizards and watching them die. At least, I thought, the setting is South America rather than Iraq or Afghanistan but even though the motivation behind the Argentinian terrorist activities is all rather hazy, the author still manages to work in an Islamic terrorist as well. Maybe this is all being choreographed by a cattle baron from the Pampas wanting to corner the corned beef market and fund Al Qaeda on the profits! No, nothing so realistic!
There is a secondary romance featuring an older couple in their forties, who really should know better and it's equally as contrived and nauseating as the relationship between the main protagonists. Combine this with a cast of stereotypical Marine types who could have starred in Top Gun and you have a full set of clichéd characters.
I feel that to market this book as a thriller is something of a cheat. This is a romance with very slight thriller elements, all of which are pretty weak and totally unrealistic. This book is the first in a series featuring the Black Ops team but I doubt I'll be reading them. There is an American writer, Suzanne Brockmann, who has had a good deal of success writing a series of romantic thrillers featuring members of a SEAL team and those are well written, enjoyable escapism. This story is a pale imitation of Ms Brockmann's work, in my opinion, and it fails to either excite or entertain.
I did finish this book, although I spent most of the read wanting to fling it against the nearest wall but the plot was so contrived and the characters so run-of-the-mill that I'd almost forgotten the story as soon as I finished the last page.
I can't recommend this book unless you happen to be a Republican-voting, gun-toting American. However, if you do want to read it, it will come as no surprise that there are copies available from 1p. What did come as a surprise to me was the fact that whilst checking out the price on Amazon, I discovered the book is rated a 5 star read. Not for me: I feel I'm being generous giving it 2 stars.