I often get the sense there are two types of series romance readers. There are those who expect a series romance to do nothing more than provide a quick read that holds their attention for a few hours before instantly fading from memory. Then there are those, like me, who believe a series romance can be just as rich, as compelling, and as memorable as a single-title release. Readers in the first category will probably enjoy Protective Measures more than the latter group. Dana Marton delivers a fast-paced, action-packed tale that should keep readers engaged for the length of time it takes to consume it. Too bad the shallow characterization and thin romance make it one with little staying power.
Congresswoman Kaye Miller is the Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, with an eye toward becoming the first female, and first African-American, Speaker of the House in the near future. As a politician, she’s used to working in a cutthroat environment, but things take a nastier turn when someone tries to run her off the road. The familiar Capitol Hill parking pass in her assailant’s window indicates one of her colleagues might be responsible. But who? Her godfather, Colonel Cal Wilson, heads a top-secret military unit designated to fight terrorism. He assigns one of his men, Daniel DuCharme, to protect Kaye. This soon proves necessary as the threats on her life immediately escalate.
Marton has an engaging enough style that I dove right in on page one and didn’t stop until the final page was turned. The premise is intriguing and topical. It’s a very plot-driven story, with the action coming at a steady rate and the pace seldom slowing. There’s plenty of excitement throughout, as the author puts her characters in one perilous situation after another and forces them to fight their way out of them. The action sequences are generally well done. I especially liked that Kaye was a pretty strong heroine, who often seems to do as good of a job, if not better, of protecting herself than Daniel does. No mere damsel in distress, she more than holds her own. The mystery elements really aren’t that hard to figure out, but the plot is suspenseful enough that it doesn’t matter too much.
This is an interracial romance with a black heroine and white hero, which is what drew me to the book in the first place. For better or worse, the racial aspect is essentially a non-issue. More is made of the purported age difference between them (Kaye is 35, Daniel 29), which gives Kaye pause. Ultimately, though, the book really isn’t a noteworthy example of either storyline.
Harlequin Intrigues tend to be plot-driven, but the best ones also develop their characters into multi-dimensional people who the reader can care about, heightening the suspense as the reader wants to see them survive. This is where Marton’s book falls short.
Kaye’s a sympathetic character, a widow who still grieves for her husband who died from MS. At the same time, her characterization is rather shallow and she’s fairly bland. Daniel is a nonentity. I’ll give the author credit for not saddling him with some trite tortured past, but it would have been nice if she’d tried developing him at all. The only thing we learn about him is that he’s really good looking, but then, what romance novel secret agent isn’t? Despite seeming nice enough, he’s just a stock military type with no attempt to flesh out the character into something more. The romance has some nice moments, but it happens very fast. I believed they were attracted to each other, but I wasn’t really buying they were in love by the end. If I, who was privy to their individual perspectives, didn’t feel like I knew them well enough, it seemed doubtful they knew each other well enough to be in love. The villains are just as thinly drawn, one-note bad guys no deeper than the paper they’re printed on.
Protective Measures isn’t a bad book by any means. It’s just a little too shallow to amount to much more than a quick read. Readers looking for an action-packed story may enjoy it while it lasts, just as long as they’re not expecting anything truly meaty that will make a lasting impression.