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Special forces

REVIEW: In the Air Tonight by Stephanie Tyler

REVIEW: In the Air Tonight by Stephanie Tyler

Dear Ms. Tyler:

I choose this book because I like romantic suspense stories  with former special forces heroes (and heroines), I liked Hard to Hold, the first in your previous series, and this story featured a sister and BFF of an older brother romance.  The blurb alerted me to the fact that there was a supernatural element in the story and while that’s not a favorite trope of mine, I decided to wait and see.  Of all the things that bothered me about the book, the supernatural element was not one of them.

Into the Air Tonight stephanie tylerMace Stevens is a Delta Force operative who also runs a bar in upstate New York when he isn’t off saving the world.  (I found this to be implausible, but what do I know).  Mace’s crew was captured and tortured and one of its members, Gray, was killed.  His body is shipped back to his family where he is mourned by his father and stepsister, Paige Grayson.

Paige has a special ability that allows her to see a person’s thoughts, memories and emotions by touching them with her hands.  So of course, she goes into nursing because if one is haunted by one’s ability, you choose something that puts you in near constant contact with people who are in pain and suffering, correct?  But an incident at the hospital brings Paige unwanted publicity and the local newsrooms dig out her story of being the sister of a boy who shot up his high school and killed several classmates.  Paige has suffered from this ever since because she knew her brother, Jeffrey, was bad. She could sense it every time she touched him.  Jeffrey was in the psychiatric ward of a maximum state prison, but he’s still haunting her.

Paige decides to quit her job and seek out Mace to find out what really happened to her brother.  There are two competing stories going on in this book.  The first is a continuation of a previous storyline involving Mace Stevens’ Delta Force team that was captured and tortured.  One of the members is dead and another has amnesia.  Caleb can’t remember what happened to him and the implication is that he may have killed Gray.  Throughout the story, Caleb is interchanged with Cael.  I thought that this was an editing error because it just made no sense at all.  I was told later that it was a nickname.  Not once in the book, however, was it mentioned that Cael was a nickname for Caleb and why wouldn’t it be Cale v. Cael.  This was actually a big deal to me because I constantly was wondering if there was another person in the room.

But Mace’s were just beginning. He’d had the feeling in his gut all day, couldn’t shake it, had snapped at Caleb for no reason and now Keagen, the other bartender, was also giving him a wide berth.

Cael, not so much. He was used to Mace’s moods—even with Caleb’s memory loss, he seemed to understand instinctively that his friend was, and always had been, a moody bastard.

and

He didn’t wait for a response before he left, which was good, since Mace had frozen at Cael’s words, was still staring where the man had been standing, although Caleb was already long gone.

and

Caleb had been drugged simply by luck of the genetic draw. Reid had been down for the count and the three of them that were left—himself, Gray and Cael—were equally capable, but Caleb was broader, definitely the biggest of the men, and DMH had figured they needed brawn.

There just didn’t seem any rhyme or reason as to when they called him Cael or Caleb.  I think the constant switching between Caleb and Cale confused me because some of the writing was rough and I would spend a long time puzzling over the meaning of a sentence rather than being engrossed in the story.

Mace needed to keep busy—goddamned, mindnumbingly busy—contemplated going for a ride on the ATV, until the liquor truck came skidding up the road, toward the bar.

“You’re not okay, Mace, so don’t try to pretend with me,” she said simply.  Not unkindly, and it was all he could do not to tie her to his bed and not keep there until neither of them could see or walk.

But how am I supposed to pick it all apart?  How am I supposed to tell the difference between the men he’d been ordered to kill in the line of duty and the man he’s not?

When he pulled her hips out and spread her legs, she gripped the sides of the sink, harder than before.  When he sank his tongue deep inside of her, she felt as if she could rip it off the wall.

The second part of the story is the suspense plot in which random bad things are happening to Paige that can be traced back to her brother, Jeffrey.  Jeffrey is just a stock crazy, icky villain.  There is nothing in his past that made him bad and there is no exploration of the childhood that Paige and Jeffrey shared to see why one kid turned out wonderful (and gifted) and the other didn’t.  Given that Paige had a supernatural gift, it seemed odd that this was not explored.

The emotional arc of the characters seemed to go from A to Z with no discernable path in the middle.  For much of the first part of the book, Mace and Paige are at odds and then suddenly, they give in to their passion and start copulating.  I guess I was supposed to find that the lust was too great for them to overcome but why at the particular time? Why not when she first comes to find Mace?  When does Mace go from the solitary independent man to not being able to breath without being physically attached to Paige and vice versa?

Paige’s gift is inconsistent, although no reason is given for this. The inconsistency is convenient, sometimes she can see whole swaths of a person’s past, but when it comes to Caleb/Cael, she only gets feelings but later she’s able to watch nearly every memory of Mace’s, practically experiencing his entire life through her hands.

Finally, I was frustrated when all  these random guys began showing up. I kept wondering a) why are they here and b) more importantly, where the heck are they all going to sleep?  How do they all fit into that tiny house? I felt like it was such an obvious ploy to say “see, look how many sexy guys I will write about in the future” but I wasn’t intrigued but irritated.  It’s possible that part of my problem had to do with jumping into a series at midpoint but you can’t blame everything on that.  D

Best regards,

Jane

P.S. I know that the commenters will say “where is the editor or copyeditor” but one thing I learned from publishing folks is that if an author is very late with her work or if she is not a very clean writer in the first place, these things are not always in control of the editor or copyeditor. I don’t know who is to blame, I only know that it was distracting.

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REVIEW & GIVEAWAY:  The Darkest Hour by Maya Banks

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: The Darkest Hour by Maya Banks

NOTE:   I’ll be announcing the winners later today, August 22, 2010.

Dear Ms. Banks:

I have to confess, although I think you know this already, that I am all over the place with your books. Some I have enjoyed tremendously, others have bored me, and still others make me shake my head in dismay. When I had heard you were writing books in the romantic suspense genre, I was interested because most everything I had read from you had been purely erotic in nature, meaning that the conflict was centered mostly around the relationship of the two (or more) protagonists, usually based on sexual exploration. The blurb for The Darkest Hour didn’t sound like an erotic romance and it is not.

The Darkest Hour by Maya BanksThe story opens with Ethan Kelly trying to drink himself into oblivion, again. Ethan had married his childhood love, Rachel, a young girl that became part of his family long before they were married. But Ethan loved his job as a Navy SEAL maybe more than he loved Rachel and their marriage began to disintegrate when he was gone for weeks on end, with no word when he would return. Lonely and alone, Rachel went on a relief mission and only her remains were returned to Ethan. Devastated by how he had failed Rachel, how he never gave enough of himself to her, Ethan can’t live with himself.

On the one year anniversary of her death, Ethan receives a package which suggests that his precious wife is not dead, but has instead been held in captivity in some hellhole in Cambodia. Ethan is struck by two extreme emotions: hope and hate. Hope that his beloved is still alive and hate at himself for allowing her to be a prisoner for over a year. Ethan seeks out the help of his brothers, all former military who run a security firm that rescued people, freed hostages, “blew shit up.” I loved the scene in which Ethan took his case to his brothers.

"Ethan," Donovan began in his quiet voice. "You have to know, this is probably just a hoax. Some sick joke. It might even be someone with a grudge against KGI. What better way to get us in the line of fire with our balls hanging out than to dangle Rachel in front of us like that?"

Sam nodded grimly. "We certainly have to treat it as a possible threat."

Ethan exploded in rage. He slammed into Sam, grabbed handfuls of his shirt and got into his face. "That's my wife down there in some shit hole. We aren't talking about some name-less hostage or some political pawn who doesn't matter. This is Rachel. With or without your help, I'm going in to get her."

I don’t think it is any spoiler to say that Rachel is recovered but she has amnesia. She’s addicted to drugs which were used to keep her compliant while imprisoned and her memory is like a sieve. She remembers a few people from her past, like Ethan, but not much else. She doesn’t even recall much about Ethan, just a lot of intense feeling and a foreboding.

There is a lot of emotion in this story and while the suspense is present, I thought the real story was the relationship between Ethan and Rachel. Ethan is desperate for a second chance. Rachel is haunted by fleeting memories and struggling to cope with being with Ethan again. There is tension between them that belies his whispers of love and devotion. They both have to deal with the problems of what caused their marriage to fail the first go around. Ethan, in particular, is in a pickle because no one in his family knew how bad his marriage to Rachel had become.

This book isn’t perfect. One thing that bothered me quite a bit was Ethan’s mother’s adoption of another teenage stray, Rusty. While she played a part in the conflict, Rusty was also a forgotten character for many stretches of narrative. I felt she was sequel bait and little else. At some point, I presume she will hook up with one of the many Kelly brothers.

I liked how the amnesia part was dealt with. Rachel felt confused and guilty and needy, all at the same time:

"Will you take a bath with me?" she blurted.

He blinked in surprise, and for a long moment he didn't say anything. He seemed to struggle with exactly what to say, how to respond.

"You used to wash my hair. I remember you touching me."

Fire built in his eyes, sparking the blue until it resembled a storm front.

"Are you sure, baby? I don't want to do anything to make you uncomfortable."

She shrugged, hating the awkwardness of asking her husband, her husband, to be intimate with her again.

But I would have liked to have seen more of Rachel’s recovery from her addiction to drugs and whether it had any long lasting effects (it didn’t seem like it did) particularly when I thought that the drug addiction was in place of Rachel being sexually assaulted (which it appears that she was not).   The suspense doesn’t pick up until the second half of the book and while present, my focus was on the rebuilding of the marriage between the amnesiac Rachel and the guilt ridden Ethan.

Also, while I didn’t mind this, I can see some people being frustrated with Rachel because she is weak and often being taken care of by the Kelly men, and the local law enforcement, Sean (who might also be future hero for Rusty) but given that she was a recovering drug addict who had been imprisoned for a year in Cambodia who was also struggling with regaining her memory, I cut her some slack.   Who wouldn’t be a basket case, right?

I was very satisfied, emotionally, by the romance.   Bring on the rest of the Kelly brothers!   B

Best regards,

Jane

I have 10 books to giveaway and if you leave a comment and tell us the title of the last good book you’ve read (because I’m nosy like that), I’ll enter you to win one of the 10 copies. Thanks to Berkley and Maya Banks for the giveaway. You can read an excerpt of the book here.

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This is a mass market to be released on September 7, 2010 by Berkley, a division of Penguin Books. Penguin engages in Agency pricing.