Tag Archives: Mercenaries

December Holiday Read-a-thon: A Proposal for Christmas Showcases Two Authors With Variable Results

4 Dec

A Proposal for Christmas by Linda Lael Miller and Lindsay McKenna (Harlequin, September 24, 2013)

The difficulty of reviewing a holiday romance for every day in December is that you have to read a LOT of holiday romance, and some of them aren’t good. Normally you know that I don’t believe in reviewing books I don’t like but I get a little torn when it comes to anthologies. If one of the stories is amazing, then I want you to know about it, but what if the other isn’t?

This is the dilemma I had with the duo-ology (is that a word?) of Linda Lael Miller and Lindsay McKenna‘s A Proposal for Christmas. I like both of these authors very much, but while each novella felt like a story the author had tucked in a drawer for years, the difference was that Miller’s was both dated and had characters I wanted to dope slap, while McKenna’s story was a heart-warming holiday tale about the healing power of love (and was a little bit dated, but I’m willing to file it under “historical”).

“State Secrets” by Linda Lael Miller

I like Linda Lael Miller’s writing so much that I have no plan to even tell you anything beyond the merest hint of this story, which is actually a full-length novel peripherally involving Christmas. A Secret Service officer is assigned to investigate the third cousin of the president-elect who happens to be a good-looking cookbook author with a brother who is also a former Secret Service agent who is now a drug addict with ties to Al-Qaeda. No, I’m not joking. That IS the plot.

A little research reveals that this story was originally published in 1985 (who wants to guess it was Russians then?) and then reissued in 1999, and maybe that should have been the last time we had to read this puppy. Despite the modern terrorism reference to update the story, no character has a cell phone and a major part of the plot involves an answering machine, yes, of the whirr, click “did you rewind the tape?” variety. I could handle the inconsistency of the dated references juxtaposed against the carefully placed modern insertions, but the characters came off as very unlikeable to me. AND they didn’t give a thought to condoms or birth control and then were incredibly surprised a couple months later. Uh-huh. Did I mention I have have terrible allergies…to stupidity? Hand me an EpiPen, already. Go read Miller’s McKettrick series and wallow in what a terrific writer she can be. This one should have stayed in the drawer.

“Five Days of Christmas” by Lindsay McKenna

Lindsay McKenna – a writer of such renown that she not only served in the Navy during the 1960s but actually is credited with inventing the military romance – provides a fabulous palette cleanser in the form of this novella. McKenna has produced one of the longest running sagas in romance publishing, the Morgan’s Mercenaries series, which is actually divided into multiple subseries and is so complex I require a flowchart to understand it (the Goodreads link here is your best bet for understanding the order). This is clearly what happens though when you’ve written over 100 romance novels!

Rocky Mountains of Montana (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Morgan Trayhern and his wife Laura take seriously the celebration of the holiday in their base of operations, a small town in the Rocky Mountains in Montana. All the employees of the Perseus Black Ops company who find themselves stateside are invited and case in point many of the mercenaries actually have families based in the small town the Trayherns call home. For five days, this family hosts multiple events at their home and the area to get everyone appreciating the holiday spirit.

Originally published in 2001, “Five Days of Christmas” centers on Colt Hamlin, a very tired mercenary with a mild case of PTSD from his multiple missions in Kosovo. He’s been holing up in his condominium and nursing a bottle of Jack Daniels to help with the pain, but it’s not working. When his boss calls to tell him that Colt is needed at the house of the local biology teacher to help with the preparations, a disgruntled grizzly would look more charming in comparison. But one look at the fiery-haired woman who answers the door and Colt realizes that something pretty momentous just happened.

Rare orchids play a special part in the story and are a good metaphor for both Abbie – who looks delicate but is strong – as well as the relationship between her and Colt.

Abbie Clemens is only twenty-seven, but she’s well acquainted with pain. Her husband and best friend died two years and since he was a mercenary for Perseus, the Trayherns have always treated her like one of the family. She also helped them with their troubled son Jason, now at the Naval Academy, but she’s never seen someone in more pain than the incredibly handsome Colt when he turns up on her doorstep. She realizes that not only can she see past his surface to the well of pain lying underneath, but that her presence seems to help Colt, hopefully reminding him of all the good things in life.

This was an exquisite tale of love between two people who are so meant for one another that the awkwardness comes from knowing one another so quickly and so well. Colt feels he’s damaged goods and Abbie believes that she’s plumb and plain with little but an empathetic shoulder to offer the good-looking man who is slowly coming back to life. I adored both these characters and was impressed with the many characters and their families clearly accumulated over the decades she’s been writing this series. Even with not having read these books (and that will change, let me inform you now), I could easily pick up on the past storylines and character dynamics, making this tale (of which the miracle of Christmas features heavily) a true favorite.

Worth Putting Under the Tree?

At around $8.57 for the Kindle edition and over $12 for the hardcover (what is Harlequin thinking?), I would recommend this for Morgan’s Mercenaries fans in ebook form or simply as a requested book from your local public library or used book dealer. I’m so glad I read the McKenna novella that I can certainly recommend the book from that angle, but Miller fans will want to stick with her other excellent work and not demoralize themselves with this particular story.

Tonya Burrows Has Not One But TWO Great Series in HORNET and Wilde Security

5 Nov

SEAL of Honor (HORNET #1) by Tonya Burrows (Entangled Select, May 28, 2013)

I’m beginning to make Entangled a go-to publisher since I’ve yet to read a bad (or even a mediocre) book from these folks. With authors like Tessa Bailey, Gina Maxwell, Laura Kaye, and Samanthe Beck, they’ve earned quite a bit of my trust in finding outstanding fresh new voices in romance fiction, writers who combine emotion, intelligence, and singe the sheets sex for an unbeatable combination. Bless you, Entangled!

I now have another author to add to my pre-order pile, the wonderful Tonya Burrows. While I am classifying her under romantic suspense since each of her books has a strongly written suspense plot, military romance fans will find much to love as each hero is a former member of the armed forces.

But this author, who only began publishing this past May, has emerged with one not but TWO interrelated series – her HORNET series featuring a mercenary group made up of a hodge-podge of wounded males practically bleeding testosterone (yum) and her Wilde Security series about five brothers, orphaned at a young age, who one-by-one finally find the women meant to cut through their respective shells.

Let’s cover these in order, shall we?

SEAL of Honor – #1 in the HORNET series

Gabe Bristow definitely feels like his life is scraping rock bottom. Surviving a horrible car accident along with his best friend has left both of them without the direction of their SEAL careers and Gabe has to get around with a cane much of the time adding insult to his injury. Goaded by that same best friend, Quinn, Gabe agrees to take a job with a private mercenary hostage rescue group and quickly finds himself with a job.

Unfortunately he also has a motley team (at least Quinn is his XO), many with rather checkered pasts, who have had zero training time together. A billionaire has been kidnapped in Columbia and the insurance company has hired HORNET to get him back so they won’t have to pay his hefty $60 million insurance policy. Praying that his fledgling team can work well together, Gabe is astonished when he arrives on the ground to come face to face with a gorgeous and terrified woman, the victim’s baby sister, Audrey Van Amee.

Honor Reclaimed (HORNET #2) by Tonya Burrows (Entangled, May 27, 2014)

Audrey may be a free spirited artist living on the beach in Costa Rica and shunning all her brother’s attempts to support her, but he and his family are still all the family she’s got. With her fluency in Spanish and possessing the last clues of his disappearance (they were videoconferencing when he was taken), she wants to figure out how she can best help. Scared out of her mind after a group of burly military types break into her brother’s apartment and then knock her unconscious was not how she pictured the calvary arriving, but now that she knows of their existence, she’s determined to stick close. And sticking close to their leader, Gabe, is hardly a problem. She’s not sure she even likes him, but, boy, do they have chemistry in spades.

Gabe is more than aware of his chemistry with Audrey but getting involved with her while on a mission would not only be unprofessional but she’s the forever type and his outlook won’t let that be part of his future. He may be an okay brother, but with parents like his, he has no role model for being a good husband in a relationship. Yet as the case tightens around them both, they can’t help but succumb to the heat between them, even knowing that Gabe will feel the need to just walk away.

Gabe is the uptight, uber-Alpha with a mushy center when it comes to the right woman, and the fun, direct, artistic Audrey is definitely the right woman. It’s impossible not to fall for them both, particularly when, from the moment they meet, the air between them becomes combustible. Don’t believe me? Check out the entry I made for Entangled Brazen’s #dirtytalker Appreciation Month (and this book didn’t even come out under the Brazen line, but it should have):

Burrows, SEAL of Honor

*Fans self* Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to get a glass of water. Feeling better? Great. But there is going to be more, so I’m just warning you to brace yourself. 🙂

The first novel does an outstanding job setting up the rest of the series, with clear personality sketches for each member of the crew – a crew who carries so much collective baggage that it’s a wonder their mercenary group doesn’t need an additional plane for missions. SEAL of Honor not only possesses two smokin’ hot, sympathetic lead characters, but secondary characters to drool over while a taut romantic suspense plot unravels in interesting directions. What’s not to love? The next book will feature the man not even on the team roster yet, the much debated Seth Harlan, a phenomenal sniper just about broken from his torture and captivity. His book is entitled Honor Reclaimed and will come out in May 2014. And yes, I have already pre-ordered it.

Wilde Nights in Paradise (Wilde Security #1)

Wilde Nights in Paradise (Wilde Security #1 – Jude and Libby) by Tonya Burrows (Entangled Brazen, June 2013)

Jude Wilde is the baby of the family and it shows in his devil-may-care attitude and his shit-starting ability. While he acts like nothing ever affects him and he’s not about to get serious about life, there was one thing in his life he was once incredibly serious about, Libby Pruitt. A beautiful college student when he met her, he screwed their relationship up royally and has had to live without the one person he wanted more than anything for eight years. Now out of the Marines and working with his brothers, he’s startled to see her father and his former commander walk through the door with the announcement that Jude is the only one who can protect his daughter.

Libby is a successful assistant ADA but somewhere along the line she seems to have acquired a determined stalker. Believing it to be tied to a case soon to go to trial (and whose defendant is currently out on bail), her high-handed father has taken it upon himself to hire a bodyguard. Once Libby would have no problem handing over her body to Jude Wilde for guarding (or anything else), but his cheating on her after he had proposed two days before put the kibosh on her girlish dreams. Yet her father is right – being seen in Jude’s company simply looks like they’ve gotten back together – and an obvious attempt on her life while with Jude convinces her to accept his protection. But she doesn’t have to like it.

Yet both of them head to the house of Gabe’s sniper friend Seth Harlan (see the second book in the HORNET series above) in Key West to wait out Libby’s case posing undercover as a reclusive honeymooning couple. Despite her firm intentions, Libby can’t be around Jude without having him awaken all those lustful feelings like when she first met him. That’s exactly what Jude wants, and he’s determined to break down all Libby’s defenses in order to have a second chance at a relationship with her. She’s determined that any physical fling between them would be “just sex” and he’s just as determined to use all his talents to prove to her that they are meant to be together. And that eight-year-old fire between them? If anything it’s hotter. Here’s my entry for the #DirtyTalker entry for this book:

Burrows Wilde Nights 1

Oh, it is so worth it, let me tell you! Jude was as much a victim as Libby was all those years ago, and seeing these two fight to get Libby’s trust back is nothing short of heart-warming. As seen above, the sex scenes are certainly sheets-warming, 😉 so you get everything with Wilde Nights in Paradise – a reunion romance, hot sex in a romantic setting, and some pulse-pounding moments when the real danger to Libby emerges.

Wilde for Her (Wilde Security #2)

Wilde for Her (Wilde Security #2 – Eva and Cam) by Tonya Burrows (Entangled Brazen, October 28, 2013)

Wilde for Her actually opens on Libby and Jude’s wedding in Key West (and you’ll be interested to note that Gabe and Audrey from SEAL of Honor as well as Seth Harlan are all in attendance) with Cam Wilde standing up as groomsman with Jude as Libby comes down the aisle. Cam has brought his best friend and former cop partner, Eva Cardoso as his date, and seeing Eva dressed uncharacteristically in a sexy dress is twisting Cam up inside, giving him all kinds of naughty ideas. But he’s a player and Eva means too much to him to mess up their relationship. Right?

Eva had all her naughty thoughts about Cam when he first became her partner years ago, but after determining he wasn’t interested she put them all aside and simply valued him as her best friend. Having recently broken up with her boyfriend after realizing that he didn’t want to get married, she wants everything her mother never valued – marriage, children and security – and doesn’t plan on being with a man who doesn’t feel the same way. But being confronted with that same ex in the hotel bar – with his fiancee – deals her a serious blow to the ego. He just didn’t want to marry her and Cam decides to take her mind off her problems by daring her to a round of the most horrifying shots she can swallow. She accepts and, their inhibitions lowered, you can guess what takes place:

Burrows Wilde for Her

The sex between them is mind-blowing, but Eva – completely freaked out by how amazing it was – sneaks off the next morning, leaving a naked Cam to get kicked out by housekeeping, making him totally livid. Back in DC, he realizes that he is going to have to play it cool to make sure Eva doesn’t bolt on everything they might be able to be to each other. But wooing her takes backstage to the fact that someone has taken out a hit on Cam, and when that fact intersects with a case Eva is working, Cam is in a tight spot of wanting to protect the woman who means everything to him while not losing her with his deception.

Ohmigod. Where to begin with this one? Friends to lovers is one of my favorite tropes so this was actually the first Tonya Burrows book I read (and I think I was a third of the way through it when I went and bought the other two), so I was so on board with Eva and Cam getting together. We get to know the brothers much better in this book, particularly Cam’s dickish alpha twin, Vaughn (who I’m praying will be the love interest of the next book!) and it’s clear Cam and Eva are perfect for each other. This is in part because they are two of the most oblivious, stubborn people I know, so I’m really pulling for pre-marital counseling that helps them work out their communication issues. I swear, there were so many times I wanted to smack Cam – he of all people must understand Eva’s background and her insecurities yet he never comes out and says he (the notorious player) actually wants a serious relationship with her? WTF, Cam? It’s a good thing you are so freaking sexy and such a good guy otherwise I’d be pulling for the hit man. (Do yourself a favor and go over to Burrows’ website to take a look at her dossier – complete with pictures – of the various brothers. But take that cold drink you got a few paragraphs ago with you.)

There is no way that you don’t want more (lots more) of this series, with Vaughn clearly entangled with the woman Eva’s ex left her for and Eva’s just-pulling-it-together younger sister, Shelby, identifying the mystery man in the coffee shop who regularly eye-fucks her as being none other than Cam’s brother, Reece. Nice connections, and Burrows establishes enough sizzle between these parties that I find myself getting extremely impatient for their stories.

Tonya Burrows has taken her place in the stable of tremendous (often debut) talent at Entangled with these three books which were so excellent that I have clearly added her to my “pre-order it, dammit!” list. I’m grateful that her unique voice is added to the wonderful world of romance fiction and thank her for adding not one but TWO terrific series to the world of romantic suspense. Thanks, Tonya!!! 🙂

%d bloggers like this: