Bodyguard Rescue is one of the more impressive series debuts I’ve read in some time. This may be Donna Young’s first release, but you’d never know it from the book itself, which outshines what many veteran authors are delivering these days.
Roman D’Amato is an operative working for a top-secret, ultra-elite branch of the CIA. This is supposed to indicate that he’s an excellent secret agent. Of course, given how many top-secret, ultra-elite branches of the CIA there seem to be in Romance Novel Land, it just makes it easier to understand how the CIA can’t get anything done with all these different groups running around doing their own thing. In any case, Roman is tormented by a mission that went horribly wrong, so much so that he broke off his relationship with Kate MacAlister, the woman he loved. He hasn’t seen her since. Then he gets a call from his boss, informing him that Kate has gone missing.
Kate is a nuclear physicist who recently made a breakthrough in anti-matter energy research. The formula she developed could be used to create a powerful energy source, or a weapon of catastrophic proportions. Then she learned one of her partners on the project was planning to sell the formula to international arms dealer Nigel Threader. Kate managed to destroy her lab and escape to her brother’s mountain cabin. She’s shocked when Roman arrives there too. She wants nothing to do with him after the way he treated her, but she may need his help when men working for the Threader come after her. Threader doesn’t just want the formula. He wants Kate. Roman is just as determined to keep her from him.
It’s somewhat standard material for romantic suspense, the tortured secret agent hero protecting the woman in jeopardy, old lovers reunited, et al. It still works in Young’s capable hands. She has a strong, assured voice and this is a very polished tale. It certainly doesn’t read like a first book. The plot is a little more straightforward than I usually prefer, basically one long chase with only a few twists along the way, but the author makes it work. There’s plenty of action, with the plot in almost constant motion. There are a number of effective moments and well-played scenes that stand out, though naming them would probably ruin them. It’s a nicely suspenseful storyline with a chilling villain and several ruthless bad guys in pursuit of the main characters. Roman is a very alpha hero, the kind of guy who walks in, sees that Kate is exhausted and needs rest, and promptly drugs her rather than argue with her. He should appeal to readers who like their heroes rough and hard-edged, although with a weakness for the heroine, of course.
One thing I particularly liked is the way the author uses little details to give the story a more “real world” feel. The cast of characters are a diverse lot from all around the world. The details of their backgrounds and some of the descriptions really add to the story, making the backdrop seem sharper and more connected to the real world than many romances, particularly series ones.
The only part of the story I didn’t like was the perfection of Kate and her immediate family, which was straight out of Romance Novel Central Casting. They’re Scottish (because so many romance novel families seem to be either Irish or Scottish), and they’re incredibly wealthy, so much so that Kate is described as “an heir to the MacAlister fortune.” Despite being wealthy, Kate’s mother is a reconstructive surgeon who works mostly with children born with deformities and those with life-threatening injuries. One of Kate’s brothers is a CIA agent (who also owns an international security firm) and and the other is a Navy SEAL (what else?), who are obviously being set up for stories of their own. Throw in Kate, the genius who earned two doctorates by the time she was nineteen and speaks five languages, and these people were all too perfect to be believed. I thought Kate’s family was cloying and clichéd, and she herself was too flawless for me to warm up to. Her character isn’t as developed as Roman’s. She comes across like a strong heroine at times, but there’s a lack of dimension to her that made her kind of irritating.
Even though Kate is too perfect to be believed, Bodyguard Rescue is an enjoyable book and a very good start for a promising new author. Anyone with a taste for alpha heroes and action-packed plots should give this one a try.