I’ve heard wonderful things about Anne Calhoun, so I was excited to read the fifth book in her Alpha Ops series, Going Deep, which is a bodyguard-protects-the-starlet romance. My expectations were high – possibly unrealistically so – because I found Going Deep to be enjoyable with appealing characters, but the plot felt a bit formulaic and never fully captured my undivided attention. It provides plenty of evidence to confirm that Ms. Calhoun is an exceptional writer – her character development was brilliantly executed. She is able to evoke emotion even considering the slightly bland and routine plot, which leads me to believe that perhaps Going Deep is an anomaly in Ms. Calhoun’s body of work.
Conn McCormick is a police office through and through. This isn’t just what he does for a living – this is fundamentally who he is. His colleagues are his first true family, because he grew up without stable parents and never had a sense of true family. Being a cop is his identity and world, which is why he is devastated and infuriated when he is wrongly accused of brutally assaulting a suspect after an arrest. Conn knows someone manufactured the charges, and he feels betrayed, especially when his Lieutenant must follow procedure and consider him guilty until the matter is investigated. Conn is temporarily relieved from active duty and directed to serve as an around the clock bodyguard to hometown celebrity and national singing sensation Cady Ward, known to the world as Maud.
Cady just finished an eight month, sell-out tour and returns to her beloved Lancaster to rest, rejuvenate and celebrate the holidays with her mother and sister. She’s experienced increasingly threatening fan behavior – erratic letters and emails, aggressive attempts to get close to her – and her manager is concerned for her safety even while she is in Lancaster. Cady doesn’t agree and doesn’t believe there is any real danger; therefore, she doesn’t want a bodyguard with her 24/7. Her agent wins the battle of wills, and they enlist the local police to provide protection. She and Conn both unwillingly find themselves in an extremely close working relationship. Conn needs to focus on discovering the truth behind the allegations against him and does not want to babysit a pop star who doesn’t even want him around. Neither is thrilled to be thrust together, but they both have a strong case of insta-lust when they are around each other.
As Conn moves into Cady’s house and takes up his role as her personal security, they swiftly and openly acknowledge their mutual desire while also agreeing it’s not the best idea to indulge themselves. Conn genuinely has reservations, because no matter how casual a sexual relationship might be, he knows there will be some feelings involved that could affect his ability to protect her. Cady is not bashful or coy in stating what she wants, and it is refreshing to see a female character own her sexuality. Ms. Calhoun is known for sexy romances, and Going Deep is definitely sexy.
Cady’s character is both fun and endearing as she rarely holds back, and she maintains a laid-back, cool vibe. She’s honest and comfortable with herself, and she definitely does not have the ego expected of someone so young who recently achieved fame and fortune. She’s very close with her family and has a strong affinity for the town that supported her when she was a struggling artist. She doesn’t have a lot of emotional baggage, and she’s the yin to Conn’s quieter, reserved and emotionally bruised yang.
Conn realizes Cady isn’t the diva he expected, and they abandon their reservations and indulge their strong attraction. Conn’s feared feelings develop and his role as bodyguard becomes more complicated just as threats against Cady begin to take a more personal, hostile tone. He’s more motivated to get to the bottom of the threat against her but also still trying to manage the mess at the police station and save his job. He has a lot on his plate. Conn’s plight is moving, because his lonely childhood is vividly brought to life and his fears and reluctance to open himself up to pain are palpable. He is the ideal alpha-hero – strong with a take-charge attitude, tortured but possessing a smidgeon of hope, and a loving and sensitive man who just needs some coaxing to reveal himself. The reader can’t help but ardently want to see him heal and find happiness with a real family. Conn is the heart of Going Deep and his character makes the book recommendable. He saves the day in more than one way.
If Going Deep had deviated slightly from the norm and offered something a little different in its plot, it would be truly captivating. It is easy to recommend, because there is no denying that it is a satisfying read. I definitely plan to read more of Ms. Calhoun’s books.