I asked to review Hot-Blooded for one primary reason: The setting is a rural Afghanistan military base. (Seriously, how awesome is that?) Unfortunately, while the setting proved interesting, the romance proved too lackluster to earn a recommendation.
When Elena de la Vega catches her boyfriend, Larry, in flagrante delicto with another woman, his excuse for cheating is that Elena is too boring. It’s the last straw for Elena, who’s tired of hearing the same refrain from her family. In response, Elena impetuously tells Larry that she’s volunteering for a 6-month deployment to the Middle East as part of her job as a contracts administrator for the Defense Procurement Agency. When Larry calls her bluff, Elena is forced to put up or shut up. She signs up for deployment to the Green Zone in Iraq, which is well-known for its safety and amenities. But while she’s waiting in Kuwait City to make the final leg of her journey, she’s told that her deployment location has been changed to a forward operating base in rural Afghanistan. Dismayed over this turn of events — a forward operating base is significantly more dangerous than the Green Zone — Elena opts to spend her last night in Kuwait City living life to its fullest. When she meets sexy Chase McCormick at an embassy party, Elena decides it’s high time she indulged in a one-night stand.
First Sergeant Chase McCormick is about to start his fourth year-long deployment in Afghanistan, and a one-night stand with Elena de la Vega is too tempting to resist. The next day, when Chase and Elena discover they’ll be working at the same base for the next six months, Chase is furious. He has very specific ideas about women in combat zones. That is: They shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the area, regardless of whether they’re military or civilians. It’s not that women aren’t capable of doing the job. No, it’s that the presence of women proves too distracting, and men aren’t able to perform their duties. Case in point: Chase can’t focus on his job knowing Elena is on base. He’s too distracted by thoughts of her, and too worried about protecting her. But try as he might, he can’t seem to stay away.
I loved the setting of Hot-Blooded. How often does one get to read a romance set in rural Afghanistan? Um, never. It was quite interesting to read about the hardships and challenges military and civilian personnel face on a forward operating base, and the dangers of leaving the base. But while the setting was fantastic, the actual romance left me unsatisfied.
The romance between Chase and Elena gets off to a good start in Kuwait City, but it hits roadblocks at the base. Chase’s anger about Elena serving on base has more to do with anger at himself and anger about women in combat zones in general, but more often than not he takes his frustrations out on Elena. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if he’d gotten over it faster, but he spends so much time fighting becoming involved with her, that the resolution feels rushed and the HEA unbelievable. They barely know each other, but he’s so in love he’s willing to change his entire way of thinking? Sorry, not buying it.
That said, I did enjoy the book. It kept me so engaged that I hit the 150 page mark before I even came up for air. Unfortunately, that was about the same time that I began to realize the HEA was going to be hard to pull off, what with so few pages left, and so little progress on the romance front. I ended the book wishing it had been single-title length. I found the setting so interesting that I would have loved even more details, and I really would have loved a more fleshed-out romance between Chase and Elena. Too bad there just wasn’t enough page space to accomplish those goals, because Hot-Blooded really had more potential than was realized.
This was a hard book to grade. On the one hand, I flew through the pages because I was so enjoying it, but on the other hand, there just wasn’t enough story-time devoted to the romance for it to be ultimately satisfying. Since I can’t in good conscience recommend a book when I didn’t come close to believing in the HEA, I finally decided on a C+.
If you’re a reader who really likes unique settings, you might give Hot-Blooded a shot. The romance doesn’t quite live up to expectations, but you could certainly do worse. It’s really a matter of weighing the pros and cons between an intriguing setting, and a less-than-fulfilling romance.