I’ve seen positive feedback for this book on message boards and it has all the ingredients I like in a book – SEALs, spies, action, adventure, and intrigue – so it surprised me when I was so under-whelmed by the story. Was I suffering from the general reading malaise many readers seem to be suffering right now? No, because there are other romances I’m having to force myself to put down while reading, it must be something about Into Danger that didn’t spark my interest. As I struggled through it, I figured out the problem: everything but the sex.
Steve “Stash” McMillan is a Navy SEAL, who at the bequest of his boss transferred into a CIA group to do intel work. The transition hasn’t been easy because most of his team look on his military background as a liability and he’s bored with the lack of action. But now he’s got a new assignment that excites him. He’s been placed undercover as a lackey for infamous assassin Marlena Maxwell. His job: discover her target in the D.C. area before she can carry out the hit.
But things are not adding up. If Marlena’s in town to kill someone, why is she getting threatening calls and not even in the room when an attempted hit takes place? Before he knows it, Steve is starting to fall for her. Can he gather enough evidence to prove Marlena’s not one of the bad guys, or is his attraction to her clouding his judgment and putting his career in jeopardy?
Here’s the sad thing, I didn’t care one way or the other if Steve was able to clear Marlena or if he was going to end up being court martailed, because I did not care about either of them. First, let’s look at Steve and what the reader learns about him. He’s bored with his job, he’s immediately attracted to Marlena, and he’s been voted best kisser of the millennium. That’s about it really. Oh yeah, and he has jealousy and possessivness issues that allow the villains to get the upper hand. Not exactly hero material. The reader does get to spend more time in Steve’s head than any other character’s, it’s just not very interesting because he’s in perpetual heat and it blinds him to what’s going on. How he ever made it anywhere in the Navy and CIA is beyond me. Eventually we get some snippets about family problems and money issues, but no real motivation for his career choices or why he acts the way he does. Steve never really becomes a fully fleshed out character.
Marlena has even fewer dimensions. At least we know Steve’s identity; Marlena’s is never revealed. Eventually it is revealed that she is a covert agent working for a non-government agency that does contract work for various governments, and part of her job description is assassination. Beyond that we never really do learn much about her, except on page 249 when she tells Steve about her childhood and how she chose this line of work because her only other options were waiting tables or being a rich man’s mistress. But by page 249 it was too little (really it was too little, all superficial information) too late. I didn’t care about Marlena. Was she really an assassin? Maybe. Was she working for the government? Maybe. Was in she in love with Steve? Maybe. All I knew for sure is that she liked to shop for over priced clothes, liked expensive cars, and couldn’t cook an omelet to save her life.
The book’s plot was no more clear or interesting than its main characters. The assassination thing appears to be a bit of a red herring; this is really about intel leaks, arms dealing, and top secret Naval research technology involving underwater robots and a stolen laptop… I think. It’s one thing to leave your characters in the dark, but when the reader has to infer and guess what’s going on and re-read passages even when they don’t help, something clearly isn’t working. What’s worse is that, though this is the author’s debut, reading this book from the beginning felt as though I’d started at the half-way point because of all the sub-plots and secondary characters introduced. I assume these characters will have their stories told elsewhere, but it’s hard to say as none of these side stories are fleshed out or tied up.
So why isn’t this book getting an F? I mean I was totally lost, completely uninvolved, and felt the characters were so underdeveloped as to be uninteresting, so what’s left? A very hot and erotic sex scene involving a pearl necklace and some questionable mechanics. If Low writes another sex scene like that in a book with a little romance (as opposed to just lust), well rounded and fleshed out characters, and a coherent plot I’ll be there. In the meantime, I say give this book a pass.