The Darkest Hour
If every girl isn’t crazy about a sharp dressed man, it can be argued that a fair number of us are. And is there anything that denotes sharp dressed like a man in uniform? I think not. So it never surprises me when authors go for military men in their romance novels, be they contemporary or historicals.
Ethan Kelly has been mourning his wife’s death in a hard, bad way. On the one year anniversary of her demise he manages to crawl out of the bottle long enough to head to the cemetery with roses and his usual apology for failing her – being a SEAL and never being there for her, being a generally lousy husband, and the ultimate failure of driving her away just to see her killed while on a mercy mission. Imagine his surprise when he gets home and finds an envelope that contains proof that his wife is alive and a prisoner in a South American drug cartel camp.
Fortunately for him, his brothers (former military men themselves) own KGI, a sort of gun for hire outfit. They are able to go in and retrieve Rachel, who is deeply drugged and barely able to help in her own escape. The whole Kelly clan is thrilled to have Rachel back. She has always been more daughter than daughter-in-law, and they can hardly believe their good fortune in having someone they thought loved and lost returned to them. Rachel is fragile, though, unable to remember much and struggling with the drug addiction that was forced upon her by the cartel. And more, no one can quite understand why Rachel was held prisoner. What an earth did a drug cartel want with a do gooder all American gal? And then, even as Rachel begins to heal, events occur that could put an end to her recovery. Permanently.
While the writing is good and the sex scenes pretty heated, this is a story that tries to be too much to too many people. There is the mystery of Rachel’s kidnapping. The trauma of her homecoming. The horrors of her addiction. And the ongoing work of KGI. Not to add that the author spends a lot of time introducing us to people I am certain will be getting their own books soon. In many ways, much of our time is spent like it would be at a big party – meeting people and getting their back stories. It took away from the hero and heroine a bit too much for my taste and gave a sense of unreality to the whole tale.
Additionally, much of what happens at the end should be surprising but instead falls straight into romance novel central territory. Rachel goes from fragile flower to kick butt heroine in the blink of an eye. The villains keep muttering the name of the man they are covering up for. No one figures out that two failed murder attempts on a person means you should shoot them, stake them, and burn them on sight rather than taking them to the perfect spot to off them. (Is there such a place?) There is a moment when we are almost at the big reveal, but the person talking doesn’t bother to get out their message – choosing instead to spend their time blathering about other things until dead, leading of course to more action and trauma. The kind of gimmicky things we have all seen before and that never fail to irk a bit.
The characters here are in many ways straight out of central casting too. The villains are evil, everyone else is sweet to the point of sugar. The boys’ mother, a retired teacher, is the kind of woman who takes in strays at the drop of a hat. She also remembers every student she ever had (Impossible. Seriously.) Their dad is the gruff but lovable patriarch. The brothers are all brave and true, warriors through and through, but softening up at the sight of kittens and young children. The family is best buds with the town sheriff, who is an all around great guy. The whole situation is like that old Chevy commercial where we all loved baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and American made cars. It’s the kind of friends and family scene that can really only exist in a fake universe. In some ways it was good but towards the end I felt a wee bit diabetic.
Ethan and Rachel’s romance was pretty typical fair. too. There was delight at their reunion, with Ethan being really wonderful at getting Rachel back on her feet. Then there was the obligatory Big Mis/Big Secret and then another reunion. I felt a bit cheated by the fact that they both seemed to be in love right at the first. While there was some tension from nightmares Rachel was having and the awkwardness of her lack of memory, there was also recognition and trust from the moment she laid eyes on him. We begin the novel knowing she was the perfect woman for Ethan and nothing ever seems to shake that, which was a bit odd considering all she went through. My big complaint is that there aren’t any really tender memories – or moments – that don’t seem to either involve sex or the whole family. I really wished I could have seen these two go to dinner or pick a movie or have Rachel remember that the first thing she did when Ethan came back from a mission was give him a backrub or something – anything that hinted at what bound them. We never get to see that and while it didn’t mean there was no romance, it did mean the romance was a bit briefer than I would have liked.
I am a fan of military romance and this fit the bill averagely but only adequately in that department. I can recommend it at that level, but not much beyond. This looks like it will be a whole series, so perhaps future books will have a bit more to offer.