REVIEW: The SEAL’s Secret Lover by Anne Calhoun
Dear Anne Calhoun,
I’m a big fan of your books, so I was very excited to hear you have at least
three four books coming out this year. The SEAL’s Secret Lover is the first, a novella, set in Turkey.
Rose Powell is Senior Director – Operations and Logistics for Field Energy Company. At thirty, she is the youngest to make it so high in the organisation and as a woman, she feels she needs to work twice as hard to prove herself. She doesn’t shy away from hard work. She is fiercely organised and thrives on the challenge of her job. She’s on holiday when the book begins but her job and her passion for it form a large part of her character.
She is accompanying her Grannie and her Grannie’s BFF’s, Marian and Florence (aka the “Bucket List Babes”), on a dream holiday to Turkey. Her former-SEAL brother, Jack, was to accompany them and act as tour guide but he pulled out at the last minute, leaving everything up to Rose to organise. He has promised an alternate tour guide to help but she’s still annoyed. Since Jack left the Navy, he’s not been doing well and she was hoping to spend some time with him out of his usual environment, getting him to open up to her a little. Even though there’s quite a bit about Jack in the story but he doesn’t actually appear in person. (He is the hero in the next book, The SEAL’s Rebel Librarian which is out on March 1st. You know I’ll be reading it. Because of course.)
The alternate tour guide is Keenan Parker, a buddy of Jack’s and also a former SEAL. Keenan has been based in Istanbul since leaving the Navy, working with Grey Wolfe Security. He’s familiar with the area and speaks fluent Turkish. Also, he’s gorgeous. (I feel that’s important to know.)
Jack had always portrayed Rose to his fellow SEALs as dumpy, dowdy and a bit of a ball-breaker. Rose is anything but. Okay, she might be a bit of a ball-breaker but as Keenan is turned on by it (and everything else about her) this is not a problem at all. (Besides, what’s wrong with being a ball-breaker anyway amirite?) Clearly, Jack didn’t want any of his SEAL friends cracking on to his sister. Too bad for Jack, he’s not here.
Rose and Keenan are fiercely attracted to each other and, what begins as a one-night stand becomes a holiday fling and then more. As Rose, Keenan and the Bucket List Babes tour around Turkey, visiting places such as Ephesus, Troy and Istanbul, the couple draw closer until both begin to contemplate a possible future together. And this was the the disconnect for me. I liked the setting, which I know little about but which sounded both authentic and interesting. I liked the sexual chemistry between Rose and Keenan. They certainly scorch up the sheets. But I missed the bit where the romance really happened. There was a lack of “getting to know you” and their HEA sprung up out of nowhere for me. Both made some pretty radical decisions about their future without so much as a conversation with the other.
Partly, I think the problem was the novella length of the story; there wasn’t a lot of page time to develop the romance. But also, it was the time frame. I think the holiday in Turkey took about a week, maybe a little more. Rose and Keenan had never met before. It was no stretch for me to believe they’d be attracted and hook up, but for them to end up HEA without actually talking about the possibility? Well, it didn’t give me confidence about their communication skills.
Possibly some of the romance was in the subtext about The Iliad and The Odyssey. Keenan is tired of war and finds it difficult to explain to anyone who’s never been in that theatre. But he relates to The Iliad on a whole ‘nother level now and carries the book everywhere. Rose sees Keenan as someone who is looking for home and, The Odyssey (she hopes) will act as a kind of roadmap for Keenan. I know the broad stories of both books but I’ve never read either. Perhaps I missed something when Rose and Keenan discussed these books. I acknowledge I’m not good with subtlety in my reading. In any event, there was just a leap made between hot sex and HEA that was just too far for me to make.
For the setting, the writing, the chemistry, I’d give The SEAL’s Secret Lover a B-. For the romance, I can’t give it higher than a C+. I am absolutely still on board for the next (and any other) books. Because of course.
I love Anne Calhoun, so your comment “…You know I’ll be reading it. Because of course.)” cracked me up and had me nodding in agreement at the same time. Not every ball can be hit out of the park, but you come back time and time again to watch the really good ones take a swing. (I can’t believe I made that metaphor work all the way through to the end!).
Thanks for the review.
I had the same issues as you did, Kaetrin – the time frame, the giant leap from a week of burning up the sheets in Turkey to a giant move from Keenan so they could get their HEA. I thought the sex was a bit bland for an Anne Calhoun story too. The Babes and the setting were fantastic, though. Overall, I liked the book because of course. ;) But I much prefer her longer works because of the depth, which a novella sometimes lacks due to page count limitations. She’s still an auto-buy author for me.
I love Anne Calhoun! But why is she naming her books like those category romances that have to mention every trope in the title? E.g. The Billionaire Cowboy Doctor’s Secret Engagement to the Virgin Widow.
@Jo Savage: publisher input? I wondered the same thing. Or is this becoming a trend? Yikes!
@Sara: Exactly! :)
@Jeannie: I think if it had been a bit longer I could have bought into the romance more.
I love Anne Calhoun too – and The Iliad and The Odyssey??? (I am not an Austen fan, I am a classic epics fan, so you just sold me. And Turkey is at the top of my bucket list, fighting with Morocco for #1, so BAM).
I am going to buy this book and do a search for ‘wine dark sea,’ oh yes, I am.
@Anna Richland: Sounds like your catnip Anna! :)
I read it this morning! Kid #2 was slightly late to cello lesson b/c bad mommy was reading. I enjoyed it and I would definitely recommend, but like you, I wished it was a little longer.
First, how awesome to find a SEAL romance without a suspense plot forced into it! I definitely liked that. And the setting/travel part was great, I want to go to Ephesus. I had never thought of going to Rumi’s home, but now that sounds wonderful. (And a snippet of one of Rumi’s poems would have been nice, even just in a dedication? But I realize that most translations are probably copyrighted and unable to be used.)
Also, I thought the use of the Iliad was great and fulfilled my needs although I did NOT stumble across ‘wine dark sea,’ perhaps Homer’s favorite phrase. Still, I had a hard time believing the hero had memorized chunks of the Iliad and was on his second copy of it b/c he’d worn out the first one but had never read the Odyssey – I would have believed it more if he had read the latter years before and just never connected with it when he was young and not picked it up again. I felt like he should have been reminded about the Odyssey, not introduced to it, does that make sense? Especially b/c a lot of the Odyssey is woven through modern culture – Cyclops, Rick Riordan, etc. Still, the use of the books was a beautiful touch and conveyed a deep level of the story for me.
Personally, I thought the ending worked (I didn’t read it as a huge leap without communication – The Odyssey was, I thought, a very clear invitation. And she had also issued it quite clearly as well when she mentioned to him the thing that he actually did to surprise her, about midway through the story. So, I’d say she was broadcasting pretty well.
Do you think he should have called or emailed? Is that the lack of communication that you felt wasn’t working? That worked better for me, frankly, than K. not walking Rose back to the hotel the last night. That was out of character, I thought.
I really wished for about 15 – 20 more pages of the trip. Maybe a little more of the group in the car, a little bit more showing Rose interacting with the grannies and Keenan there, etc. Still, as an author, I wouldn’t ding a writer for a novella that I wanted to be longer! I always think that’s like saying this chocolate was unacceptable because it made me want more.
Now I really should fix dinner or I will continue to be bad mommy even though I finished the book.
@Anna Richland: I’m glad you enjoyed it. I didn’t want an email as such. I wanted to see them actually fall in love. I never made the leap from “fling” to HEA. They never talked about having a future together. They didn’t know each other all that well. To change his life completely in the face of that seemed odd to me, notwithstanding the invitation via the Odyssey. I’m glad it worked for you though.