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JoAnn Ross

Dear Author

REVIEW: Breakpoint by JoAnn Ross

Dear Ms Ross,

Some of the other DA reviewers talk about how certain authors and their books are like crack. As soon as the next book is out, it’s in their hot hands and being devoured. I prefer to compare such books to potato chips. I open the bag and intend to only eat a few. Okay, a couple more. All right and damn the bag is practically empty so might as well finish it off. Sometimes my fried snack food weakness bothers me more than others and sometimes I regret reading potato chip books more than others. This is one that I don’t feel too bad about.

Dallas O’Halloran and Julianne Decatur have a history. A bad history since it was Julianne’s job as a Navy JAG Lieutenant to question Dallas about the actions of his fellow Spec Ops survivors of a goat fuck of a mission gone wrong. No one was ever prosecuted but only because none of the higher ups were interested in seeing anything go to trial.

Then Dallas’s black ops cover was effectively shot to shit on a later mission while Julianne was discovering that the rungs on her Naval career ladder had been dismantled. So now the former Air Force enlisted man has signed up with the Phoenix Team and the former Naval officer has joined a new, super secret undercover sort of thingie group called THOR.

What Dallas doesn’t know is that Julianne is with THOR and what she doesn’t know is that he’s a liaison from Phoenix Team. And what they’re both about to discover is that they’ve been paired to find out what happened to a Naval pilot whose death aboard a carrier was originally deemed a suicide but which now looks like murder. As Dallas says, they and a lot of others are going to be in a world of suck before this is all over.

There is some serious military man worship going on here. Which, given the status of all the heroes as former military men makes sense but the degree gets in the way of the story at times.

Thank you for mentioning how few happy ever after marriages there are with Spec Ops men while they’re still in the military. One reason this series works for me is that all these men are retired – even if they do work for Phoenix. However, the new THOR group made me grit my teeth – but then even the idea of super-duper, uber secret, deep black government groups makes me twitch.

The balance between romance and suspense is good. There’s a tad too much mental lusting for my personal taste but the story doesn’t get bogged down with one side over the other and the back and forth switching romance <–> suspense isn’t jarring.

Juls stays fairly professional when in work mode and doesn’t turn into whimp girl so she can be saved by Dallas. She owns her Ice Bitch title and even seems to revel in it. I found her cool, sardonic comments to Dallas totally in keeping with her personality. Also, her controlled demeanor fits with her background as a military brat. They seem to either be this way or totally wild.

Dallas hasn’t let his childhood wreck him nor does he carry the baggage around or pull it out at the drop of a hat. No Angst Boy here, thank God. Again with him, you integrate his past into his adult behavior. His history of multiple foster homes accounts – a little – for his tendency to use charm to ease his way while the Bible beater in his past fires up Dallas’s dislike of the religious mentor on the boat.

My, you watched the PBS Carrier series, didn’t you? Cdr David Fravor and his night carrier landing on a pitching boat after flying the tanker was pretty cool, though. I do like how you work current military issues into the story – PTSD, military suicides, accepting women as fighter pilots, divorce rates, difficulty of long distance relationships, the rigid hierarchy and difficulty in hitting all the right notes to progress to the upper echelons of rank.

What happened to the video cameras onboard ship? I remember Jane mentioning something in the review for “Crossfire” about how the security cameras were mentioned but then they never figured in the final resolution of the story. Same here. Or are we just supposed to know that the villain has enough oomph to be able to remove all evidence or that the tapes were looped over. Anyway, why mention it only to drop it?

And Dallas can’t read a topo map? WTF? I find that….interesting and convenient yet, strangely, again having no bearing on the final outcome of the story so…again…why mention it?

The whole subplot about Merry in trouble and how Juls finds out about it could either be uplifting or unintentionally hilarious, depending on a reader’s take on it. I found it tacked on, personally. Kidnapping! Wildfires! Hails of bullets being fired between the rescuers and the kidnappers with Merry and her eight months pregnant self running between them then Tom slinging her over his shoulder. Slinging an eight months preggers woman over his shoulder? Is that possible? No wonder her water then broke so we have Delivery of Twins with Dallas unexpectedly charmed by the sight!

The quickie romance didn’t totally faze me since these two discover how much they have in common as the story progresses. You showed me why they should end up getting along and falling in love instead of merely presenting it as – voila! after 340 pages of fighting, we’re in love.

Cracking the case is done methodically, albeit with Dallas’s computer savvy coming in awfully handy at times. But the tactic he uses to focus on the intersections of the major players makes sense and helps wrap up the case in the allotted time frame.

But enough of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder’s famous quotation. After the fourth time I read it, my mind screamed “Yes, I get it. I got it the last three times too.” B-


This book can be purchased at Amazon. No ebook format that I could find despite all previous High Risk novel series being in digital. Whatever.

REVIEW: Shattered by JoAnn Ross

REVIEW: Shattered by JoAnn Ross

Dear Ms Ross,

045122612701lzzzzzzzLast fall I read the previous book in this series, “Crossfire.” Yes, this would be me reading a book about a (former) Navy SEAL. The same me who often laments the high rate of SEAL heroes on the ground. “Crossfire” worked better for me than it appeared to do for Jane and unfortunately it also worked better than does “Shattered.”

Army Night Stalker helicopter pilot Shane Garrett survived the clusterfuck operation in Afghanistan that cost him his leg. But surviving Army doctor Kirby Campbell was another matter. Shane nobly sent her away then got on with his rehab. Now outfitted with a prosthetic leg that’s almost better than his own was, he teaches private flying lessons and does some lecturing at the military academy in South Carolina near where the sniper evens of “Crossfire” took place.

Former Army doctor Kirby Campbell put her heart on the line when she went to see Shane shortly after his evacuation from Iraq. And he stomped it flat even though he never left his bed during the whole time she was offering it. Since then, she’s continued to work as a doctor with Worldwide Medical Relief and is currently trying to help the desperately poor people of a Central American country ruled by an oily-smooth dictator.

It’s while she’s in Washington, DC speaking to a Senate committee about conditions there that her fellow doctor and best friend is taken hostage by rebels. They don’t know the US government won’t hand over money for Rachel’s release but Kirby knows that if Rachel isn’t rescued quickly, she’ll probably be killed. Now it’s up to the Phoenix Team to do what the US can’t do – and that’s get Rachel out of there. Kirby’s not going to be left behind nor is Shane, once he learns the woman he’s never stopped loving is putting her life on the line.

The first part of “Shattered” jumps back and forth as we get the conclusion of the spec ops mission that wove through much of “Crossfire.” When the first book ended, Shane was in desperate shape having been badly injured. Now we see exactly what happened to him and watch while SEALs Zach Tremayne and Quinn McKade as well as a CIA spook, an Air Force Combat Controller and some Army Rangers battle their way through the snow covered mountains of the Hindu Kush before landing in the relief camp where Kirby is currently working.

Then it jumps to the scenes where Kirby and Shane first met and began having wild nookie while they were off duty – and occasionally on. Then the action finally settles down to what’s happening now in Monteleon and the US as the Phoenix Team gets ready for the rescue. I was glad when the action in the book stopped switching back and forth and we could just move forward.

Kirby is – for the most part – a heroine I like. Shortly before I began this book, I had just finished one with yet another tall, willowy, lithe heroine whose legs go on for miles. Since I look nothing like that, I sent up a silent prayer to get a book with a heroine more like me. Kirby, with the exception of her blonde hair, is perfect. Curvy and vertically challenged. Thank you. She’s also intelligent, passionate about her profession and the work she’s currently doing. She asks smart questions, follows directions and generally avoids TSTL moves. I would wish that she’d made Shane grovel just a tad more since he broke her heart but since he’s obviously head over heels about her and it appears that she’s got him tied in knots, okay.

Shane and all the other Spec Ops guys in this book walk on water. Or so I would believe after reading this book. I liked the action sequences here. They’re very military and sound like what I’ve heard from the military men I know. It’s all understated black humor, dead on seriousness about getting the job done and determination to succeed. It’s when the men are around nonmilitary people that I tended to notice a gushing, fan girl squee factor. It’s not as bad as the “worship at the altar of SEALs” that I’ve read in other books but it’s definitely there.

There were also points in the story that made me wonder why you included them. When the injured Shane is brought to Kirby’s camp, she spends precious minutes debating with Quinn and Zach the proper military procedure. Yeah, they all know it. They’re aware of what they’ve done by bringing Shane there but his leg is shattered, he’s lying in his own frozen blood and he’s probably going to die if he doesn’t get medical care. So stop arguing already Kirby and help him. Which she finally does.

Then we get two chapters of Kirby bonding with the wives of other Phoenix Team members. It’s like a teenage slumber party with wine and discussions of sex. I didn’t need this a book labeled as a “High Risk Novel.” I also wondered about the history lesson Kirby imparts to Shane in a sleazy dive on their way to the rescue as well as the political science discussion Shane and a CIA operative have after a shoot out. Surreal, would describe my reactions to them. WTF am I reading here? would be another.

Quinn, Zach and the other Phoenix Team people along with Shane and Kirby take great care with the rescue plans. Lots of money that this uber rich organization has appears to be spent, special contacts are contacted to produce the special stuff needed that they require to pull it all off. More secretive people get involved once they reach Monteleon and there’s even an undercover agent among the rebels.

But then you spring the news on us that Shane is supposed to go to a nearby government base and steal a helicopter to fly them out. A copter that apparently they all just hope like hell is going to be there. WTF!! I thought. All those plans, all that money, all those other people putting themselves at risk in a country run by a dictator complete with goon squads and the escape plan hinges on the hope that they’re going to be able to get a copter to fly their asses out of there? My cat listened to me rant in disbelief and major points got deducted from the final grade here.

Still, I did like huge sections of the book. It was nice to see poor Michael the former priest find his true love even if she turns out to be a little squirrely, IMO. I hope they’re very happy doing their relief work among gun toting children. I could easily have passed on the slightly emo moments that passed between the men since I found them almost impossible to believe. As I said earlier, Kirby deserved more than one grovel, though it was sincere and lengthy. I liked the way you placed them in a location that will probably make them very happy. But the “gee kids, let’s hope we can find transport out of this jungle hellhole” part of the rescue just about did me in. C+


This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.