Under the Wire
Knowing Under the Wire was in the mail for review, I quickly purchased To the Brink, an earlier book in the series to acquaint myself with The Bodyguards. Always a doubter when it comes to romantic suspense, I cautiously began reading the book and was thrilled to realize I loved every minute, which left me in a sort of quandary. While I now had much of the background necessary to immerse myself in this, the fifth book in the series, I also had created some pretty high standards for it to meet given how much I’d loved the earlier release.
Manny Ortega may be a U.S. citizen, but his heart remains with the country of his birth, Nicaragua. Before being exiled at the age of eighteen, he served his country faithfully as a covert freedom fighter and for 17 years he has covered his sense of failure to his country by concentrating on the hate he holds for the woman he loved intensely all those years ago – the woman who played him false and betrayed him to a death sentence.
As a member of the Doctors Without Borders team, American nurse Lily Campora’s altruistic nature was tested to the limit when she served in Nicaragua years earlier. Those events forever changed her life and she will never forget the week she spent in the arms of a young freedom-fighting soldier or the heartbreaking news of his death after his mysterious disappearance. When Lily sees her love from on a news documentary one evening, she first rejoices that he is alive, but also realizes she must find him to tell him some long overdue news.
Manny served in the U.S. Special Forces for years before joining the Boston police department as a detective. Lily purposely relocates to Boston to facilitate their meeting, but she doesn’t expect their reunion to be such a disaster or for Manny to treat her with such hostility. Within minutes of watching Manny storm away, Lily’s world becomes a nightmare in which she knows only one person who can help her – Manny. When she requests his immediate assistance in a far-away country, Manny knows he can’t turn Lily away although he is furious that he must have any association with her. Joining up with his Special Forces buddies, Ethan and Dallas Hawke, the group leaves for Sri Lanka within hours and Lily, much to Manny’s annoyance, insists on accompanying them.
This is romantic suspense at its best – there are no serial killers, revenge plots, or evil rich guys looking to take over the world. Sri Lanka is on the verge of civil war and the team drops right into the middle of the action, flashing from the taking of hostages, to sliding down a long muddy embank while on the run, to getting shot at by a howitzer – all while attempting an almost impossible rescue. Ethan, Dallas, and Manny are the same rescue team as in To the Brink, and are just as fascinating this time around. Joining the team is Ethan’s fiancée, Darcy, and we get to see a continuation of their relationship as well as more of the delicious Dallas (whose book is scheduled for publication in June, 2007 – I can’t wait!).
The book’s first fifty pages is regretfully unimpressive. It focuses on the leads’ relationship 17 years ago and, although I realize this set-up was necessary, it failed to inspire much confidence in the book’s worthiness. It was the captivating present day romance, with its complexity of emotions, that inspired me to keep turning the page without taking a break. The fact that the heroine is ten years older than the hero (which makes Lily 45 for the majority of the story) was challenging for me at times, but, regardless, Manny and Lily’s relationship reemerges slowly and richly. Both are immensely likable and the cast of interesting secondary characters add rather than detract from a well written story.
Suspense is given more time than romance, a fact that usually leaves me complaining, but this tender romance stands strong amidst a multitude of relentless action scenes. Although this can be read as a stand-alone, I believe you will enjoy it more if you read To the Brink first (it’s actually the third book in the series).
Seventeen years of hate is a hard thing to change quickly and Gerard doesn’t allow a quick resolution. As I took time to reflect on the story as a whole, I realized Gerard had given this couple’s reunion just the right amount of time and attention. Manny is an effective hero but Lily is the star here. Her maturity and vulnerability moved me deeply. Although totally out of her element as she searched the jungles for rebel forces, Lily emerged as a strong woman without a note of kick-ass or TSTL. She’s at the top of my list of romantic suspense heroines.