Military-themed romances tend to have a few key components: a very protective alpha hero; a feisty heroine, usually from the hero’s past; and a tight-knit team of soldiers. Heat Seeker has all these things, and yet doesn’t seem clichéd or overdone. Okay, maybe a bit clichéd, but it’s still a fast-paced, entertaining book.
Rachel Gannon is an undercover operative for a deep secret not-quite-governmental agency, and it is during her investigation into an Egyptian businessman that she is captured and tortured. The last person she expects to rescue her is Kadin Marks, her first and only love who left her ten years ago. But there he is, sneaking her out of the compound and taking her first to his team’s campsite, and then to a safe house.
Kadin was a sniper for the Marines before joining the Atrati, a black-ops agency that is frequently contracted by the CIA and State Department. When he left Rachel all those years ago, he thought he was doing her a favor; his job as a sniper assassin wore on his soul and, he thought, destroyed his humanity. However, when he heard that Atrati had been contracted to retrieve Rachel, he demanded that he be put in charge. While her initial rescue goes smoothly, Rachel refuses to leave Morocco without Jamila, the young woman whom Rachel had befriended to gain intelligence. Jamila reminds Rachel too much of her sister, who recently committed suicide, to leave her to the whims of her father and fiancé, whom Rachel is investigating.
Kadin won’t leave without Rachel, and Rachel won’t leave without Jamila, so his whole team stays and is given a very brief reprieve to try to gain any additional information before returning to the U.S. Meanwhile, there is a side romance between two of Kadin’s teammates, who once were together but had broken up after one refused to acknowledge his homosexuality to his family, and got engaged to a woman.
Kadin and Rachel were each other’s “one and only’s,” and despite the ten-year gap had never been in another romantic relationship since they broke up, when he was 20 and she 18. They both still love each other, but have a lot of baggage to deal with in order to be together. While Kadin’s rationale for breaking up with Rachel was pretty heavy-handed, it also was a bit understandable; at the time, Rachel’s greatest life goal was to own her own nursery school. Hard to reconcile that with Kadin’s role as a military assassin. The miscommunication and rejection were what spurred her to become an agent in the first place, and she blames her focus on her career for missing the signs that her sister was in trouble. In a lot of ways, it wasn’t that Kadin or Rachel had to forgive each other for events in the past, but rather forgive themselves, in order to move forward.
The side romance was intriguing and provided an interesting and unexpected twist, but the aggression shown by one of the people involved made me uncomfortable. Cowboy, the one who tried to deny his sexuality, has changed his mind and is now actively pursuing Spazz, who has been hurt and doesn’t want to risk getting hurt again. The result was Spazz continuously and vehemently rejecting Cowboy’s advances, who trivialized his feelings and assumed that Spazz would forgive him eventually. It made for an uncomfortable dynamic, both in terms of two former lovers and also two co-workers whose lives, and the lives of others, depends on communication and cooperation.
This was a very quick read; I pretty much finished it in one morning, and only put it down once during the course of the novel. It wasn’t perfect, but it was very good.