A Question of Intent
For me, there are usual several telltale clues that a book just isn’t working. One, it takes me a long time to read. I’m a pretty fast reader and can usually polish off a category romance in a day or so. Two, I keep misplacing and forgetting about it, then, I find it days later underneath a sofa cushion or on the floor of the car. And three, it puts me to sleep better and faster than any medicine could.
That’s pretty much my experience with Merline Lovelace’s A Question of Intent, which doesn’t feature outrageous or ridiculous plot twists. Smooth, well-crafted prose kept the story moving at a fast clip. I didn’t dislike the characters, nor did I particularly like them. Mostly I found them dull, a stock hero and heroine straight out of Romance Cliché 101, complete with the prerequisite baggage. And while there is a plot that is fairly believable and makes sense, it’s paper thin and seems designed to hide that though there seems to be a lot of activity going on, not much really happens. And the well written prose and fast moving plot couldn’t hide what was essentially wrong with this book: it’s boring.
Part of a team working on a top secret government project to test Pegasus, a vehicle designed to travel on land, the sea, and air with equal dexterity, U.S. Army Major Jill Bradshaw is good at what she does and dedicated to her job, and of course, has little room in her life for romance. That all changes when she meets Commander Cody Richardson, the medical officer in charge of her project. They’re attracted to one another, but are resistant. That’s where the baggage comes in and as I mentioned before it is all too familiar. Jill wears the scars, both emotional and physical, of a near rape in college. That experienced led Jill into law enforcement and profoundly affected her dating choices. Jill doesn’t date hunky, muscular men like her would-be rapist because she deems them dangerous. So she picks safer, geekier and less handsome choices whom she terms “Goofys.” I found her assumption that geeky man can’t be batterers and abusers and that geeky men can’t be sexually appealing to be very offputting, It also told me she hadn’t completely dealt with the rape. But, her fears about vanished from nearly the first time the hero kissed her. Who needs therapy?
As for Cody, he suffers from his own cliched past. He blames himself to the angst degree for his wife’s tragic death, leading the reader to believe he’s a murderer. When the true circumstances of her death are revealed, Cody’s shirt-rending seems entirely overwrought and over the top. Mind you, I have read many romances where heroes and heroines suffer from similar problems, but their angsting is far less bothersome because they had dynamic personalities, vivid characters, or something to overcome the cliches. Unfortunately, Jill and Cody are stock from start to finish. There is nothing engaging, appealing or interesting about them. They are just words on a page.
Jill and Cody’s baggage flies out of the window (and rather quickly given how much they beat themselves up over it) early on and they embark on a passionate relationship. Well, I wouldn’t say passionate. There really was no passion, no chemistry or sparks whatsoever between these two. The relationship, much like the two of them, was tepid, and entirely plot-driven rather than developing out of character. And given the importance of their jobs and the situation they found themselves in, I thought their romantic pursuit of one another unprofessional and irresponsible.
Nothing got in the way of their immutable relationship, including the mystery of a deadly virus the author devoted many pages to explaining and investigating. But the resolution was dull, disappointing, and more importantly, much ado about nothing. The entire subplot read like padding, another tactic the author relied on with this book. Not only was there endless angst by the hero and heroine about their respective histories, long explanations about the project they are working on, but a huge cast of supporting players who ate up screen time and will no doubt have their own stories. Unfortunately, despite their presence, they all had little to do with the story at hand and none of them were interesting or compelling enough to make me seek out those future stories.
The book eventually livens up, but not necessarily in a good way. I can’t give spoilers, but the heroine does something I hope never to see a heroine ever do again, which resulted in an illogical and unrealistic reaction from the hero. The entire incident was never properly dealt with and instead it received scant treatment on the way to the HEA. But again, I sense the entire sequence, which took several chapters, was done to pad the book.
After eagerly awaiting A Question of Intent, the reality disappointing. Many of Merline Lovelace’s series titles sit on my keeper shelf; they were vivid and evocative page turners. Most have a government backdrop and deal with spies, secret agents, plenty of action and intriguing heroes and heroines who fall in love while protecting our country. While this new series has elements of those earlier books, the compelling characters, fascinating plot, and passionate romance were sorely missing.