Hidden Away by Maya Banks is the second book I’ve read recently in which the macho hero has hot sex with the heroine while he is seriously injured. This seems ridiculous.
Him: Honey, I know I need to be in the hospital but, more importantly, I need to be in you. Right now.
Her: Wonderful. I’ll just ignore all your wounds and assume that when you’re moaning, it’s in pleasure rather than in pain.
Him: Great. Uh, and would you mind being on top? I think I may have a ruptured kidney.
That said, wondering whether the hero — Garrett Kelly of KGI (the Kelly Group International, an elite private organization that makes the CIA look wimpy and underfunded) might expire while bedding heroine Sarah Daniels adds some much needed suspense to this book. Most of Hidden Away is, well, boring.
The book begins with Sarah witnessing her (mostly) evil half-brother murder a man who, months ago, raped her. Sarah’s brother, the criminal mastermind Marcus Lattimer, isn’t overly worried he’ll get busted for killing the guy — Marcus is the kind of criminal who can and does get away with murder — but Sarah is completely freaked out. Without consulting Marcus, she flees the country, hiding so no one can force her to rat out her brother. (This is the first of many TSTL decisions on Sarah’s part. Why wouldn’t she at least chat with her super powerful brother before running off? She’s terrified of conflict since her rape and yet she dashes off, alone, and without a clue where she might go because she needs to protect Marcus, a guy who is famous for his clout? She’s an unemployed administrative assistant for heaven’s sakes! I just didn’t get it.)
The CIA has been trying to take down Marcus for some time. The agency has recently learned that he has a sister — a weakness! — and that she’s on the run. They hire Garrett to find her, get close to her and, they hope, help them bag Marcus. Garrett’s up for the job because he hates the guy. Several years ago, Garrett and his team were trying to rescue Marcus (this was before he became Mr. Evil). Rather than being appreciative, Marcus betrayed Garret and his team. Garrett lost several men and is now happy to shadow Sarah if it helps him nail Marcus.
Garrett follows Sarah to a remote island, saves her from a mugging, and then for way too long, does much of nothing. The two walk on the beach, go to the market, make dinner, play with Sarah’s adopted new cat, and lie to each other about what they are really up to. Not only is much of their story dull, the book is filled with disruptive chapters about other members of the Kelly family and their domestic travails. One brother’s wife has a baby — one of the most suspenseful things in the novel is wondering if he’ll make it to the hospital in time for the birth. A bad-mannered teen-age foster sister is tormented by a bully and her brothers teach the nasty boy “No one f**ks with the Kellys.” The preposterously perfect Kelly parents insure that all in their path feel loved and supported. Just thinking about them again makes me yawn.
The story picks up when Sarah flees the island — she’s sure she’s been followed — and Garrett chases after her. He tracks her down to a crap town in Mexico and explains his presence with the lie “Marcus sent me to look after you.” Sarah, still TSTL, doesn’t check with Marcus whether or not this is actually the case. Garrett and Sarah spend the rest of the novel either running from or being imprisoned by various bad guys. Marcus, the CIA, the Kellys, and the brother of the man Marcus killed are all chasing after Sarah and Garrett, as well as each other. Sarah and Garrett run into random Mexican bandits who kidnap them both, beat the snot out of Garrett with what I think is a chair leg, threaten to rape Sarah and, in general, add to the chaos that subsumes the latter third of the book.
During all this mayhem, Sarah and Garrett fall in love. I’m not sure why. There’s little passion between them — they don’t make love until the last quarter of the book (after Garrett has been tortured by the Mexicans) — and they are awkward with each other much of the time they are together. Garrett can never find the right moment to tell Sarah the truth about his mission and his reticence makes him hard to figure out. Sarah is flat out bland; it’s hard to see what Garrett finds so compelling in her. I didn’t find them very engaging, individually or as a pair. By the end of the book, I didn’t care whether they lived happily ever after or not. I was, however, happy that they lived. Having Garrett die during sex might have added to the novel’s suspense but would have killed the romance.