Someone needs to explain to me how I have managed to be such a huge fan of romance – and of the Harlequin Blaze line, for that matter – yet prior to today, I haven’t read any Rhonda Nelson. What was I thinking? Nelson is renowned for her great sense of humor, well-paced books and a series that weaves previously loved characters right into the fabric of each new book. Her Men Out of Uniform series has been published since 2006, with this book, The Professional, being the thirteenth book in the series. That is a lot of staying power.
Her excellent reputation is well-deserved. I spent my time alternating between smiling like a lunatic at the characters’ antics and fanning myself from the outstanding sexual heat between our hero and heroine. I mean, when the first time the two main characters have sex, it’s under the desk on the floor of an office they are breaking into? That’s “I gotta have you right now” sex and I can usually turn down my thermostat when I’m reading it.
As with the whole series, our hero has recently joined the now well-established Ranger Security firm. Jeb Anderson left the Army Rangers after he ignored his instincts and obeyed his commander, resulting in everyone on the team he led being killed. His guilt over being the sole survivor when he was responsible for their lives is profound, but he’s trying to get on with his life and do right by this job.
His first assignment is an odd one. All the times he’s been undercover, it’s never been as the grandson of a Viagra-dealing womanizer at an old folks’ home, but there’s a first time for everything. Okay, so the “home” is actually a high-end retirement village that’s basically spring break for the over 60 set, but Jed’s got a mission. Discover who has been stealing the high end jewelry items from the unsuspecting residents. Initially the resident masseuse, one Sophie O’Brien, looks like a prime suspect, but one look at her chocolate brown eyes and sweet expression – to say nothing of how everyone at the home treats her like an adopted granddaughter – and Jed’s infallible gut is telling him she’s not responsible. Something lower than his gut is also clueing him into another kind of feeling, and there’s a distinct impression that – just by seeing her – his whole world has finally changed, for the better.
Sophie knows all of the residents incredibly well. Her grandmother, who raised her since she was six, movedinto the retirement home during her final years giving Sophie the farm she grew up on and a sizable inheritance, much to the annoyance of her psychopathic family. Still missing the woman who gave her the only love and stability she ever knew, Sophie has resigned herself to being surrounded by a bunch of unofficial grandparents, all of whom are inveterate matchmakers. When one of the residents mystery “grandson” turns up, Sophie is shocked and dismayed to find that her whole body reacts to sexy Jed Anderson’s mere presence. She’s had some bad experiences with men and has sworn them off for the time being, and right now she’s indignant that a mystery person is stealing from the people she loves. She vows to stay focused and figure out what’s going on, but her body, the senior citizens of the home…and fate…seem to have other plans.
This book honestly reminded me a little of some of the paranormal romances I enjoy with the level of destiny involved with the hero and heroine. Their unbelieveably powerful physical attraction is recognized by them both as being a sign of their rightness for one another, a fact further emphasized by their profound ability to read each other in ways never before done by even the people closest in their lives. Jed is a fabulous hero, “on fire” level of hot, but also self-deprecating when appropriate and always honest about his feelings for Sophie. She combines the best of a heroine – a rough past which she has overcome and filled with caring for the people in her life along with a strong sense of duty with her life’s work. I loved them both separately but together they were downright combustible.
And the humor! My God, Nelson is a master craftsman when it comes to funny scenes. I couldn’t decide which I liked better, the scene where Jed walks in on his pretend “grandfather” in a turquoise and black zebra-stripped speedo “ready” for his date, Jed breaking into Sophie’s farm covered in goat manure and freaking out at the peacock cry, or the discovery that the retirement home director is a dominatrix who calls herself “The Whippet”! All of them had me grinning or laughing out loud and they provided a terrific contrast to the set-the-wallpaper-on-fire sex scenes, which were as charged with emotion as they were with animal sex appeal.
Since Nelson took the time in the prologue to show the connection between Jed and his twin brother Judd, it was wonderful that Judd was basically a continual presence by reference, text, or FaceTime call throughout the novel. His book, His First Noelle (#14) is available in paperback right now, with the ebook releasing December 1. I’ll definitely be reviewing it as part of my Countdown to Christmas series of blog posts because I can’t get enough of these two! Bizarrely, neither The Professional nor His First Noelle is listed on the Goodreads Men Out of Uniform series page? Why is that?
You also cannot deny the outstanding value of this purchase. For $3.82 for the Kindle edition ($5.25 for the paperback), you get both The Professional and the first book of the Men Out of Uniform series, The Player, (448 pages!) so you have a chance to see if you like the first book of the series as much as the thirteenth book (my answer was a resounding “yes”). I think that after reading both books and discovering the first one was as compelling as the latest addition, I’m on board for Rhonda Nelson and this series, since she’s clearly, hands down, a “professional.” Thanks, Rhonda!