Locked and Loaded
What mixed feelings I have. There’s elation that an author is willing to take such risks with her plot. Disappointment, that a couple with so much potential gets such short shrift. Sorrow, to know that Alexis Grant was a pseudonym of the late L.A. Banks and, therefore, the Delta Force series is likely to end right here. But there is also hope that maybe someone else follow suit.
Why am I making such a big deal out of the originality? Because Locked and Loaded is different. The heroine is one of the few who would deserve the origins of the word – as a DEA agent, Sage Wagner has been undercover for the past few months as a drug lord’s bimbo mistress, and just so there’s no confusion, she was his mistress. No wishy-washy, hero-saves-her-just-as-she’s-about-to-be-penetrated crap. Of course she doesn’t want to do it, but if the result is taking down the man who murdered hundreds, including her own family, then she’ll do it with eyes wide open.
Paired against a woman with such guts, the hero has to hold his own, and Captain Anthony Davis is entirely Sage’s equal. He comes in to the assignment from a slightly different angle, as a Delta Force member trying to stop a smuggling operation involving Sage’s drug lord. After they get over a miscommunication that almost ruins the whole operation, the DEA and Delta Force cooperate to take down all bad parties concerned, and Anthony and Sage have to work to keep their attraction out of the way.
It’s a very dangerous situation, and I loved that Ms. Grant didn’t whitewash anything – not Sage or Anthony’s past, nor the complexities of the case. She also didn’t blanket the drug lord, Roberto Salazar in a coat of evil. Don’t get me wrong – he’s not a noble terrorist, and he has done evil things. Sage knows this, and hates him. But is he wholly evil? No, and one thing Sage has to reconcile with herself is the knowledge that Roberto is capable of love and loyalty.
I just wish there was more time to delve into the characters, but the plot, while interesting, takes over the book. Do I really care what various parties – Columbians, Arabic terrorists, drug smugglers, Russians – are going to do, and why? Yeah…if the book was 400 pages. But not in 266 pages, with size 14 font. That said, I’m glad to see an author take the time to write an actual plot and not treat readers like dumbos.
This unfortunately doesn’t leave us much time with Sage and Anthony, who are not only believably strong but are also not white. (Yes!) However, I had a hard time believing their mutual attraction, which more or less went instantaneously to “we know this is more than just physical attraction.” Really? The author makes it all plausible, given their similar histories of mistrust and tragedy, but it requires a leap of faith I couldn’t take.
Nevertheless, the book’s uniqueness alone merits a qualified recommendation. I only hope someone will take her cues, and pick up where Ms. Grant left off.