With No Remorse
One of the best traits of recent romantic suspense is the settings. In which other subgenre do you get romances set in places like Peru and Sierra Leone? With Cindy Gerard’s latest installment of her Black Ops, Inc. series set in both, I was very keen on reading With No Remorse. While I truly enjoyed the exotic settings and the adventures taking place there, I felt uncomfortable with other aspects of the novel.
Luke Colter, a Black Ops, Inc. operative, is on vacation in Peru. No lounging on the beach for him, however; he spends his time off assisting a medical team in the mountains. Traveling on a train on his way back to the nearest airport, he observes a youngster trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. When the train is stopped by bandits and searched, Luke guesses that his traveling companion is their goal and on an impulse decides to rescue him. They manage to exit the train and run, but they are followed and have very little equipment. Soon Luke recognises his companion: Hiding under the guise of a boy is Valentina (“The Valentina. Like Beyonce or Madonna, one name was enough to tell the entire world who this woman was.”), a world-famous model, on whom, coincidentally, the teenage Luke used to have a huge crush.
Following her bitter and much-publicized divorce from U.S. Senator Marcus Chamberlin, Valentina decided to take some time off and disappear completely from the public stage. She was actually on her way back, because she is due on a humanitarian mission of her own in Sierra Leone. The attack in the train comes as a complete shock to her comparatively sheltered existence.
Soon Luke and Valentina find themselves hotly attracted to each other while they argue about what steps to take next. It’s very difficult for Valentina to comprehend that someone might actually be after her (for what reason, remains a mystery for quite some time), but she reacts with spunk and endurance and mostly avoids TSTL reactions. Yet she is not prepared to let Luke walk all over her. This all makes her a likeable character.
Luke is less all-over alpha than he may appear at first, and eminently capable in all tricky situations. In fact, the scenes in which they are on the run together are the best in the book. The development of their relationship, both sexual and emotional, is satisfying and takes into account their past and present experiences to a degree not all romantic suspense novels do.
So what did I dislike? To put it simply, Black Ops, Inc. They are the Mary Sue of secret agencies. They are all best buddies, have the best equipment, know everything, and can do anything. They are deeply patriotic, with a flag to prove it, and say without a trace of irony that they are always on the right side and perform what the U.S. government can’t. They’re all sexy as hell and tease each other with endearing rudeness whenever they are together. It was rather painful to read. In addition, I kept asking myself how they finance what they are doing, and how they can keep themselves from the occasional compromise (or a plain error in judgment). These considerations thoroughly pulled my out of my reading.
What also bothered me what the fact that Valentina is never given a family name of her own. At some point she is addressed as Mrs. Chamberlin, but her birth name is never disclosed. As she became famous before she married, it must have been publicised at some point. We may not need to use Madonna’s or Beyonce’s family names, but we know them anyway. By not granting her a family name of her own, I felt that Cindy Gerard made Valentina less of a complete person than she might have been.
The Indiana Jones bits of With No Remorse (a title, by the way, that bears no discernable relation to the novel’s contents) were full of action and great fun to read, but unfortunately they only made up roughly the first half of the novel. What followed made for rather plodding reading, which is why I can’t really recommend it. I will keep an eye out for any future book by Cindy Gerard that forgoes black ops, however.