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Cindy Gerard

REVIEW: Last Man Standing by Cindy Gerard

REVIEW: Last Man Standing by Cindy Gerard

Dear Ms. Gerard:

I liked the poetic nature of the title given that this book kind of closes the door on the Black Ops, Inc., or BOIs, crew. Joe Green is indeed the last man standing of the group. The other living members have all fallen in love and had a happy ending. Joe’s done the falling in love part. He can’t stay away from Stephanie Tompkins. But the happy ever after ending is eluding them, primarily because Joe is driven to seek justice for the death of his best friend, Bryan Tompkins, Stephanie’s older brother.

Last Man Standing	Cindy GerardThis leads him to Sierra Leone, a cell, and certain death. Stephanie, a code breaker at the NSA, sees a picture of Joe, beaten. Under the photo is a notation that he was arrested for the slaying of a Sacred Heart priest. Stephanie calls on the BOIs to get Joe out but the team is deployed on a deep undercover mission with no communication. Rafe is manning the home base but is recovering from a severe bout of malaria. He tells Stephanie to wait until the team comes back, a week, maybe ten days. Stephanie believes that Joe will not make it ten days and flies to Sierra Leone. Help comes in the form of a teenage boy who Joe saved. Together they work to get Joe and Stephanie out of Sierra Leone to safety.

The setup worked for me. Stephanie is out of her mind in love with Joe and she wasn’t going to leave him in a Sierra Leone prison to die alone. While a number of coincidences, or conveniences may be the better word for it, occur to aid Stephanie in freeing Joe and escaping with him, Stephanie never acted TSTL. In fact, she demonstrated for Joe a certain type of strength he hadn’t seen in her before.

I’ve really enjoyed this series and reading Last Man Standing was bittersweet for me and maybe it was for you as the author. The tone of the book seemed regretful. Joe wanted Stephanie, loved her, but he didn’t love her enough to be with her. Instead, he had to seek out the truth behind Bryan’s death, a truth he believes implicates someone wealthy and powerful. Stephanie loved Joe more than anything. She’d do anything for him, including following him to a hellhole in Sierra Leone.

Joe says to Stephanie when he leaves her that he doesn’t love her, not enough. And frankly there is a ring of truth to that even though Joe would deny it. He characterizes his departure as being weak, succumbing to the pleasures of Stephanie’s flesh where the better man would have resisted and broken it off with her long ago, knowing that he could never commit. But I did view Joe as not loving Stephanie enough or maybe he was scared of loving her.

Even though I admired Joe and his dedication, there were several points where I wanted to tell Stephanie that she was just too good for him. But her dogged pursuit of Joe and her refusal to accept him pushing her aside won her the man she wanted in the end and that is kind of kick ass all on its own.

What does happen is that Joe begins to see that Stephanie isn’t the frail, weak kneed girl he must have thought her to be. She blows his mind (and well she should). I never could figure out if Joe was falling in love with a new Stephanie, whether Stephanie blossomed under dire circumstances, or whether Joe was simply blind to the kind of person that Stephanie always was. I think it was the last one. Joe was so caught up in his own mission that he couldn’t see the gentle but determined woman that Stephanie was.

Even though this was the last in a long line of books, I definitely think that a reader could pick this up and not be lost. There aren’t many appearances of the other BOIs until late in the book. The focus is primarily on Stephanie and Joe. B-

Best regards,

Jane

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Reading List for Jane, Week of August 13

Reading List for Jane, Week of August 13

This is more a list of what I read last week because I don’t know what I am going to read this week.  Last week I read:

Never a Mistress, No Longer a Maid by Maureen Driscoll.  This was sent to me by the author. The pitch was really good.  The book not so much.  Standard fare Regency historical that pays no attention to societal restrictions in order to get the couple together.  Also a secret baby story.  It took me days (4) to finish this book.  Full review to come.

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Wild & Steamy by Carolyn Crane, Jill Myles, Meljean Brook. I liked all three stories although there wasn’t any consistent theme among the three.  I understand that there was some angst over Crane’s female protagonist but having not read the previous stories, I didn’t find the character objectionable.  Meljean’s story made me mad because a) it was short and b) I don’t have another Iron Seas book to read until next year.  Jill’s story is fun. I consider Jill a friend, though, so take my recommendation with that proviso.

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Hidden Talents by Emma Holly.  It’s a shapeshifter, etc. alternate reality story based on fated mate bonds.  It’s fairly decent erotic romance but it’s short and the emotional connection is underdeveloped. At the beginning of chapter two, Holly has a gay character use the word ‘faggot’ in reference to himself. I visibly recoiled.

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To the Brink by Cindy Gerard.  This is a marriage in trouble story recommended by the readers to last Tuesday’s thread.  I liked it but I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see the fallout from breakup.  Gerard writes several flashback scenes including how the couple met, got together and what led up to the breakup, but not the actual breakup itself and I felt emotionally robbed.

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A Whirlwind Marriage by Helen Brooks.  A marriage in trouble story recommended by Saly on Twitter.  It was a great read and very different in feel than past Brooks books. Brooks often writes about the heroine who wants to stay at home and have children and devote herself to her family.  She often has her characters refer to those “driven career women” as hard and uninterested in family.  But in this book, the heroine married young and felt suffocated. She wanted to have a life outside the marriage and this leads her to leave her extremely wealthy husband and rent out a dingy bedsit and work at a grocery store until she can start university classes.  Her husband wants her back but until he comes to accept her desire to have a career and a family, they can’t have their HEA.  Full review to come.

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Bad Girl By Night: A H.O.T. Cops Novel by Lacey Alexander. I meant to press the “send a sample” button but inadvertently hit the “buy” button. Oh, Amazon.  Your technology is too easy at times.  I haven’t liked previous Alexander books in the past which is why I wanted to try a sample, fortunately, I ended up liking this a lot.  There are definitely problems in this book but I’ve struggled to find erotic romances that have a good emotional arc and this one does.

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Touch of Crimson by Sylvia Day.  I’ve really enjoyed the short story contributions by Day in the upcoming Men Out of Uniform and another one (the title of which I can’t recall) but I haven’t been able to get into the historical books. I picked this up because I figure it would feature the Day contemporary voice.  There is a kernel of a very good story in this book, but because of the “no paranormal being left behind” mantra that seems to be driving the worldbuilding, the overlapping and confusing taxonomy of beings, and the super unlikeable and hypocritical hero made this a disappointing read. Full review to come.

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Catch Me by Lorelie Brown.  This is a historical western and I love the cover.   I’m not wild about the idea  - the heroine robs a bank to pay for medical care for her dad, the town sheriff, and then is hunted down by a bounty hunter who wants to be the town sheriff.  I’ve been reading it off and on for a month now. I don’t know if I am ever going to finish it.  I keep hoping that at some point I’ll start being lost in the text but it hasn’t happened for me.

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Bride for Real by Lynne Graham.  Apparently this is a sequel to a previous Graham book.  I think this is the second time this year that Harlequin Presents have had sequels to a book but haven’t really given the reader a heads up about it.  The sequel starts off with the couple in the previous book having broken up, so a marriage in trouble trope. I found parts of the story kind of interesting because the secret baby in this story was the hero’s that he created with a different woman while the heroine and hero were separated (but not divorced).  For some the infidelity might be hard to overcome.  My problem was with how superficial some of the issues regarding the couple’s separation were treated.  I did like the idea that the heroine didn’t want to accept the hero’s baby and how the hero’s baby paralleled her own life (she was the out of wedlock child in her family).

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