Dear Ms. Janzen:
This is the 8th book in the Steele Street series featuring fast cars and the military operatives who love them. While Cutting Loose has your trademark features such a special vehicle with a cute nickname: Charlotte, the Harlot, a Shelby Mustang Cobra GT500KR. It has the special agent/Steele Street chop shop boy, Zachary Prade, who has been deep undercover with the CIA for years. It has a surprisingly resilient and likeable heroine, teacher and rancher’s daughter, Lily Robbins. And finally, it has a fast paced, action packed plot. All those things combined make this an above average book. The problem is because you have done it so many times before and more effectively, it makes it only a slightly above average book.
Cutting Loose picks up where On the Loose leaves off. When Lily Robbins was in Morazan Province, El Salvador, she witnessed the beating of an American soldier. When the beating was concluded and she attempted to assist him, the soldier passed her a macrame bracelet and died. Unbeknowst to Lily, intertwined into the threads of the bracelet was a polymer strand which contained secrets that everyone now wants.
Alejandro Campos aka Zachary Prade had been deep undercover for the CIA posing as a drug lord in Morazan Province. He gave succor to Lily when she was in Morazan. She has returned to her home in Arizona and the CIA taps him to retrieve the polymer strand. The book opens with Prade returning to the States, leaving behind his past years as an undercover agent.
Whether a reader will be able to get all that from the small details that you give or whether she will be hopelessly lost, I can’t really say, but On the Loose provides a more detailed backstory to what went before that it is hard to recommend reading Cutting Loose on its own. Unfortunately, you tried to clue the reader in on EVERY past couple that you have written about in the previous Steele Street series. That’s 7 couples, 14 people and it was just way too much.
What ensues then is an action packed story that involves cars, guns, killers, and geeks. It’s a bit too much and very little time is spent on an appealing couple in Zach and Lily. Zach is a rueful, but capable operative whose healthy male appetite appreciates the female form that is Lily.
Black stretch sports bra and a pair of black, low-rise, boy-cut short shorts with lace trim–" he’d thought women only wore those in his sex-with-the-gym-teacher fantasy. Or was that his sex-with-the-underwear-model fantasy?
One of the major disappointments for this action book is that many of the scenes are told in summary form. For example, there were a couple of pages of build up about Zachary stealing a car (the Harlot) from Steele Street (i.e., that Zach had to steal the car in under 2 minutes) but we don’t actually get to see him steal the car. Our next scene is Zach in the car. In another scene, Zach contemplates how he and a bad guy “shared a little discourse in room 276” but again, we aren’t given any action scene but just a summary of what happened.
I found one point in the book very odd. Apparently all the “lost boys” of Steele Street got to go to a woman named Alazne in Arizona. She would “keep” them for a month (two in the case of Hawkins) and through her weird deflowering/seduction/introduction to manhood she would “heal” these lost boys. It was special and by special I mean speshul in the way that teachers have a thing for their teenaged students. It was a strange kind of mothering if you ask me.
The pimp had really worked Zach over, done some bad things. Alazne knew. Zach had told her everything, and she’d sent him back a little changed, a little stronger, and in a whole lot better place within himself.
There were some classic funny moments:
From where he stood next to the two of them, Dylan checked his watch, wanting to record for posterity the moment he’d first seen the opening moves of the genius-level computer geeks’ mating ritual.
The geek love story was cute. There was just so little of everything that I couldn’t focus. Overall the story was more about Steele Street and less about the main hero and heroine. In the previous story, I felt you had cut the umbilical cord with what both made you successful but also ties you down. The return to Steele Street wasn’t so much triumphant as it was tired. C