To the Limit
New author Virginia Kelly makes an impressive debut with her first book for Silhouette Intimate Moments, To the Limit. It’s a sharply written and complex tale, and hopefully just the first of many books from a fresh new talent.
Mary Beth Williams came to the South American country of San Mateo to save her brother. A civil engineer working in San Mateo, Mark was kidnapped by a terrorist group who demanded a large ransom for his return. Mary Beth knew she couldn’t rely on her father, a foreign diplomat whose tactics would only get Mark killed. So she sought out Nicholas Romero, a San Matean ambassador known for his negotiating techniques, in hopes that he would help her deal with the terrorists’ demands.
At first, Nick turns down the American woman who asks for his help. He has his own score to settle with the terrorists who have Mary Beth’s brother, and the situation is far more complicated than she knows. Nick’s cousin and surrogate brother Daniel was murdered by the same group. But when it becomes clear that she is in danger, Nick steps in. Mary Beth is caught in the middle of a complex political situation, with both the San Matean and American governments looking for her brother. They claim he is a gunrunner, and word has it Mary Beth may be involved. Nick doesn’t know whether the seemingly innocent American can be trusted. Then Mary Beth reveals that her brother left her the name of someone in San Mateo she could go to for help if something happened to him: Nick’s dead cousin, Daniel.
Determined to find out how her brother’s disappearance is connected to Daniel’s murder, Nick leads Mary Beth deep into the Andes on a mission to find the truth. On the run from two governments, they travel into the jungle to find out the truth about Mark, even as their chances of finding him alive grow slimmer by the moment. As they outrun danger, the attraction between them grows. But Nick has still more secrets about which Mary Beth remains unaware.
This is very much an action and adventure driven story, and a great one at that. That doesn’t mean there isn’t romance. Except for a few forced moments of attraction early on, the love story is well-done and ultimately effective. But the complex character drama and the fast-paced plotting are what really stand out, and the action elements dominate the storyline. There’s plenty of excitement and a good amount of tension as Nick and Mary Beth work to stay alive and uncover the truth.
Nick has a very complicated family history, which adds to the emotional undercurrents of the story. I liked this nicely complex hero a great deal, and his family is used well to reflect back on him and show what kind of man he is. Mary Beth isn’t a particularly interesting character in her own right, especially next to Nick, but she serves this story well. While she is somewhat bland, she has the appropriate amount of grit and determination to make a good match for Nick.
The book does get off to a somewhat unsteady beginning, with a little stiffness to the characters and disjointed feel to the action. But the author’s writing becomes more assured as the story develops. She uses dialogue well and her descriptions of the action are crisp and involving. For a first novel, this is a well-written book, with a nicely mainstream feel for a series book.
I always make a point to try first novels, especially by new series authors, in hopes of finding the next great writer to follow. To the Limit is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. A well-written and exciting tale, it’s a great read.