Delta Force Defender
Delta Force Defender is book four in Megan Crane’s Alaska Force series featuring a group of elite special forces operatives based out of a remote location in Southeast Alaska. I haven’t read the other books, and although the central romance between Alaska Force leader Isaac Gentry and prickly café owner Caradine Scott has obviously been building throughout the series, Delta Force Defender worked perfectly well (for the most part) as a standalone.
The book opens with a prologue set ten years earlier in which we meet sisters Julia and Lindsay Sheeran daughters of a dangerous and violent criminal and arms-dealer with connections to crime syndicates all over the world. Julia – who is paying her own way through college against her father’s wishes – has been summoned home, but as she arrives, Lindsay comes outside to warn her away, and before she can say more, a massive explosion destroys the house killing everyone inside.
Ten years later, Isaac Gentry is woken in the middle of the night by a phone call telling him the Water’s Edge Café in the tiny fishing village of Grizzly Harbor has blown up. The news momentarily stuns him, but he quickly makes his way to the village, arriving to find members of his team on site who tell him the place was fire-bombed but that it seems to have been a warning rather than intended to kill. Indications are that Caradine got out alive, but she’s yet to come back – and when all the signs point to the fact that she’d been prepared for such an eventuality, Isaac knows she’s running. They’ve been sniping at each other and occasionally falling into bed together ever since she first arrived five years earlier, and Isaac has always sensed that she’s been holding something back. There’s no doubt about their mutual physical attraction, but Caradine has refused to let anyone close, even him – maybe especially him – and after waiting for her to tell him the truth, Isaac decides it’s time to drag the ghost that was Caradine Scott out into the light, no matter what happened.
Julia – Caradine – spent the first five years after the explosion at her home moving around from place to place, never settling anywhere for long and staying under the radar. She’s always known that staying in Grizzly Harbor for so long was asking for trouble, but somehow she’d found herself becoming Caradine, settling into a life she’d known could never be hers, making connections with the villagers and a man she had no business wanting. Leaving it all behind is hard, but she’s done it before and she’ll do it again. She must. Even if the memories of Grizzly Harbor and the man she knows will want to save her won’t leave her.
A week or so finds Caradine on the other side of the country and at last starting to think that she has actually managed to evade Isaac, whom she has no doubt has been searching for her. But she’s quickly proven wrong when she wakes up in the middle of the night to find him standing by her bed in the small Maine B&B she’s staying in. Adopting her most sarcastic, jaded, cutting manner, she pointedly tells him she doesn’t want or need his help – but nothing she says will sway Isaac from his purpose. She’s getting his help whether she likes it or not, before whoever is after her catches up with her and finishes the job.
Delta Force Defender is an entertaining read with a well-executed suspense plot and lots of sexual tension between Caradine and Isaac, a pair of equally stubborn, determined, capable individuals who obviously care a great deal for each other even though they try pretty hard not to show it. Caradine is a strong-willed, spirited heroine who has learned that the only person she can rely on is herself, so letting others in goes against her strongly ingrained sense of self-preservation. I like a plucky heroine who can give as good as she gets, but I have to admit that it took a while for me to come to like her because some of the things she says are mean-spirited and deliberately meant to wound. I know it’s her self-defence mechanism and because she doesn’t want anyone to get hurt on her account, but even so, she came off as spiteful and dismissive as a result.
Isaac is pretty much your common-or-garden ex-special forces badass alpha male. He’s gorgeous and highly competent, he wants to keep Caradine safe no matter what, and if he had his way, would wrap her up in cotton wool while he and his team flush out whoever is after her. Fortunately, he knows all too well that there’s no way Caradine is going to let him do that; he might not like it, but he accepts the need for her to be involved with his plans, and they work together surprisingly well.
There’s plenty of action building to a high-stakes finale as Isaac and Caradine get closer to the truth, and I really appreciated that the romance plot is never sidelined; Caradine and Isaac spend a lot of time together on the page, and the author keeps the chemistry between them bubbling nicely along. I was, however, a bit confused by the turn things took near the end. It’s hard to say much without spoilers, but when, for most of the book, Caradine has been the one trying to keep Isaac at a distance, and she then turns around and accuses him of not really wanting her now she doesn’t need to be rescued, I did a cartoon-character-style double-take. She gives him all this guff about how she’s ready to commit, but all he knows is the fight, and how he doesn’t want to win, but wants to suffer… I was scratching my head and wondering where it was all coming from. Maybe if I’d read the previous books in the series, it might have made more sense, but I was completely baffled; throughout the book I’d seen a man who wanted desperately to keep someone he loved safe and who would do whatever was necessary to do it – and who was possibly more invested in their relationship than Caradine was. That wasn’t a man who was only interested in saving damsels in distress just for the hell of it, and I honestly don’t know what the author was trying to accomplish apart from an unnecessary delay to the HEA that was obviously on the cards.
That part cost the book half a grade point, and if anyone who reads it can explain what the hell happened there, I’d really appreciate it! Otherwise, Delta Force Defender is a fast-paced, entertaining and suspenseful read; I liked the rapport among the Alaska Force members, the evocative descriptions of the various locations and, apart from that late-book huh? moment, the romance is nicely done.
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