Lucy Monroe has quickly made a name for herself in just a few years on the romance scene. I’ve been interested in trying one of her books, and since I have a fondness for characters who are mercenaries, Willing sounded like a good bet. I hoped to find a sexy, suspenseful read. What I got was a competent but unexceptional tale that barely managed to hold my attention most of the time.
This is the second book in a trilogy that began with Ready and will end with Able (see how that works?). Josie McCall’s father Tyler owns and operates a training center for soldiers, and he raised her to be one too. She received the same elite training as all the mercenaries who came through the school. Now in her twenties, Josie just wants a normal life. She left the school to get a college education in hopes of finding a nice, regular job in the computer industry far from the battlefield.
With Josie determined not to follow in his footsteps, Tyler takes on a partner at the mercenary school. Daniel Black Eagle is an Army Ranger nicknamed Nitro. He and Josie got to know each other on a previous mission (the story told in the previous book). They’re both attracted to each other, but they each think the other person dislikes them. Then an explosion rocks the mercenary school, destroying part of the building and injuring Josie’s father. She manages to get him to the hospital, only to have him disappear. He leaves a note telling her to read the journals he has hidden in an underground bunker. Josie and Daniel team up to uncover who’s after her father and to find him.
Okay, let’s say you’re a character in a romance novel whose father and/or business partner has disappeared. Someone set a bomb that nearly killed him, which would seem like a bad sign. What do you do? Well, if you’re Josie and Daniel you spend a lot of time talking about your relationship. Then, discovering that you actually both like each other, you quickly make plans to divest Josie of her virginity. Instead of going over clues that might indicate who’s after Josie’s father, she and Daniel take the night off, go to a hotel to make sure her first time is extra special, and have a lot of sex. Now, I don’t mind if either the romance or suspense is the major factor in a romantic suspense novel, as long as the emphasis on one or the other makes sense for the particular story. In this book, it didn’t. With people setting bombs and her father missing, I couldn’t believe how little attention Josie and Daniel were paying to that in favor of flirting and having sex. I guess their belief was that Tyler could take care of himself, but I couldn’t help thinking that they really needed to rethink their priorities.
Following the one-word precedent set by the title, I’ll sum up my impression of the book in a same way: bland. There’s nothing horribly objectionable about it. The writing is competent. The romance is well-developed, which isn’t surprising given how much time Monroe dedicates to Josie and Daniel talking and having sex. Yes, the sex is copious and hot, although it would have been hotter had I been more invested in the characters.
Josie and Daniel both seemed like overly familiar types, so that while Monroe develops them reasonably, I never managed to care about them. Daniel’s father drank too much and beat his mother, leaving Daniel with guilt and anger issues of his own. To escape his miserable home life on the reservation, he joined the military, where a tough yet caring drill instructor taught him discipline. He tells Josie he’s not interested in love or a relationship, blah blah blah. I knew I was supposed to care, but Monroe never really delivered the emotions to make it so I could. His past just seemed trite. Meanwhile, despite Josie’s supposed toughness and expertise with explosives, she’s not all that interesting. The secondary characters are dull. The suspense plot has some potential, but because it’s shoved into the background for most of the story, it never really amounts to much.
One minor note, and the only thing that bothered me about Monroe’s writing, is the way some of the chapters end on a strange note. Sometimes she ends them on what appears to be a suspenseful cliffhanger, only to have it turn out to be nothing at the beginning of the next chapter. For instance, Chapter Two ends with Josie and Daniel about to enter the underground bunker: “A cement stairway led downward in the dark. Josie stepped on the first tread, but he grabbed her before she could take another step.” Wow, he grabbed her to stop her from going inside. What could his reason possibly be? Chapter Three begins thusly: “You don’t have a flashlight,” Daniel said to her. “Wait and I’ll get one from the SUV.”
That’s it??? Lame! Meanwhile, some chapters just end awkwardly, as though the author threw in a chapter break in the middle of a scene for no reason. One actually ends in mid-coitus with Daniel yelling, “I’m going to come!”
Willing is one of those books that sounded much more exciting than it turned out to be. Readers who are mostly interested in relationship development and hot sex may like it more than I did, but with characters this bland, I wouldn’t count on it. I went in to it expecting sexy and suspenseful, and all I got for my trouble was boredom.