Special Ops Seduction
Special Ops Seduction is the fifth book in Megan Crane’s Alaska Force series of romantic suspense novels and I picked it up mostly because I’d enjoyed the previous book (Delta Force Defender) and because I liked the premise of the romance in this one – two tough-as-nails special operatives who have an uneasy history have to pose as a couple in order to gain much-needed intelligence pertinent to their current mission. Unfortunately however, the suspense plot, while quite compelling, doesn’t really get going until around three-quarters of the way into the book, the hero has as much personality as a plank of wood (which is partly intentional, but still makes him very difficult to relate to or like) and the middle section of the book is kind of all over the place and failed to hold my attention.
Bethan Wilcox is the only female member of the elite Alaska Force, which is comprised of former special forces operatives who wanted to continue to fight the good fight after they left the military. As one would expect of a former Army Ranger, she’s strong, tough and fiercely competent; a woman operating in a man’s world, Bethan works harder, longer and with more intensity and determination than anyone, conscious she can never let her guard down and compartmentalising the different sides of her personality. A fearsome hardass is the face she shows to everyone on the team; behind the locked door of her cabin home is the only place she allows herself to indulge in her softer side and be wholly herself.
Big, brooding, taciturn and deliberately unknowable, Jonas Crow is a perennial thorn in Bethan’s side. He’s one of the founding members of Alaska Force and is known for his ability to be almost invisible – in the sense that he somehow does the exact opposite of attract attention – and for being utterly implacable and completely unemotional; more machine than man. He and Bethan have a history that goes way back, well past the eighteen months she’s been with Alaska Force – a past he refuses to talk about or acknowledge, but one which clearly makes him uncomfortable (insofar as he feels any emotions about anything). I have to admit here that given the way it’s built up, I expected this history to be something incredibly shocking – but it isn’t. Bethan saved Jonas’ life following a bomb attack in the desert and kept him alive until help arrived; he apparently told her all sorts of things he now regrets saying as he drifted in and out of consciousness and – er… that’s it. He behaves like a total dick to her for eighteen months because Mr. Big, Bad ‘n’ Broody is pissed he got saved by a girl.
The book opens really strongly with Bethan, Jonas and other members of the team on a mission to rescue Iyara Sowande and her brother – a brilliant biochemist widely touted as the world expert on a new form of chemical warfare – and get them both well away and to a safe-house. Their mission is successful – although not without a couple of hiccups – and all goes to plan afterwards, until a few days later, they learn that the Sowandes are missing.
Here’s where the plotting gets a bit… tenuous. There are apparently five men who could either have arranged for the Sowandes to be kidnapped OR have made a deal to gain access to Tayo Sawande’s research – three high-ranking military officers and two Fortune 500 CEOs – and by a stroke of luck, all five of them are to be present at the wedding, in two weeks’ time, of Bethan’s sister, Ellen. (Bethan’s father is also a high-ranking military officer, so they’re all members of that particular Boys Club). Bethan doesn’t get on with her family and spends as little time with them as possible; her father is Air Force (she joined the Army to rebel against him), her mother disapproves of her because she’s not good at “the serious girl stuff” (telling her once that she was worried Bethan would show up at an event wearing fatigues) and her sister, well, they don’t have much of a relationship because Bethan’s hardly around. So Bethan is about to go undercover in her parent’s home – as herself. When Jonas volunteers to be her date for the week, Bethan is as surprised as everyone else.
Around half the story is taken up with the visit to Bethan’s home and the lead-up to the wedding. We – and Bethan – finally get to see a different side of Jonas, although his one-of-the-lads act is just as much of a fake persona his usual day-to-day one. He’s starting to struggle to keep his mask in place around Bethan though, and it’s not long before tempers flash and walls come tumbling down; but desperate, heated kisses and wall-banging sex aren’t enough to keep those walls from going up again almost immediately afterwards. There’s definitely chemistry between Jonas and Bethan, but their relationship is severely underdeveloped, and while I could see what Jonas saw in Bethan – her competence, her abilities, her big-heart – I was at a loss as to what Bethan saw in Jonas, other than he’s hot.
In fact the best part of that section of the story was watching Bethan reappraise her family situation and realise that perhaps she’d misread it and misread them; I was pleased she found a way she could be herself and have her family back in her life.
As I said at the beginning, the final section is where pretty much all the action is, but as with the previous book, the lead up to the HEA had me scratching my head. It’s hard to say much without spoilers, but Bethan makes an assumption that directly contradicts something she and Jonas had said to each other just hours before, and it’s such an obvious way of manufacturing a delay to the HEA that it made me really cross.
I dithered a bit over the grade for this one, because while I really liked Bethan and her journey towards reconciling with her family and realising she could have both them and her job, this is supposed to be a romantic suspense novel and neither of those elements works all that well. Jonas is one of those typically strong, silent, alpha types, but he’s almost entirely a one-note character – all about being dead inside and having no feelings and not wanting to think about Bethan in any way, shape or form. It’s like he’s TOO badass to have an actual personality, which made it hard to root for them to be together, because I couldn’t get a handle on him – and Bethan deserved better than someone who treated her like shit for years, especially considering she’d saved his life.
So I’ve reached the conclusion that while Special Ops Seduction has its good points, there aren’t enough of them – and certainly not enough of them in the romance or the suspense departments – to merit a recommendation.