by Pamela Clare
Book 1 of Cobra Elite
Derek Tower has spent his life at war, first as a Green Beret and then as the owner of a private black-ops company, Cobra International Security. When a high-ranking US senator asks Cobra to protect his daughter, a midwife volunteering in Afghanistan, Derek’s gut tells him to turn the senator down. The last thing he wants to do is babysit an aid worker. But Jenna isn’t just another assignment. She’s also the younger sister of his best friend, the man who died taking bullets meant for him. There’s no way Derek can refuse.
Jenna Hamilton doesn’t need a bodyguard, especially not one hired by her intrusive and controlling father. She knew the risks when she signed on to work in rural Afghanistan, and the hospital already has armed security. She also doesn’t need the distraction of a big, brooding operative skulking about, even if he is her late brother’s best friend—and sexy as hell. As far as she’s concerned, he can pack up his Humvee and drive into the sunset. And, no, nothing her hormones have to say about him will change her mind.
From the moment his boots hit the ground in Afghanistan, Derek does his best to win Jenna over, posing as her brother so the two of them can spend time alone. Except that what he feels for her is anything but brotherly. Stolen moments lead to secret kisses—and an undeniable sexual attraction that shakes them both to the core. But events have been set into motion that they cannot escape. When a ruthless warlord sets his sights on Jenna, Derek will do whatever it takes to keep her safe, even if it costs him his heart—or his life.
This was another enjoyable romantic suspense from Pamela Clare, and as per usual, I bowled right through this one, stopping once only to go to sleep after three hours of being unable to set the book down. But why the average rating?
The truth is, Pamela Clare books are wonderfully easy to slip into and get caught up in. There's a certain attractiveness to her work that I somehow manage to hook onto without realizing it. Her characters and story lines have heart, and she's actually rather good at writing suspense, and making you want to keep reading to find out how it all ends. But one of the things that I've always found that Pamela gets carried away with is the schmaltz, and sometimes a way of presenting characters and situations that seem too deliberately structured to be perfect. If that makes any sense. It's hard to describe.
I don't mind it, because those instances are quickly overshadowed by the stuff that I DO love about her books.
Anyway, Hard Target was a pretty good start to a new series, taking place in the same world as her other romantic suspense series, I-Team, which is nice, because then you get a chance to briefly revisit some favorite characters from the past. I especially loved the sparse guest appearances from Holly Andris, as I think she will forever be my favorite of the I-Team heroines. And unfortunately, her few brief appearances kind of managed to overshadow our main heroine in this book, if only because, of all the Pamela Clare heroines, Holly has been the only one so far who gives us a streak of bad-ass that I loved.
No offense, and maybe this is my own issue, but for the most part, Jenna Hamilton, and the majority of the I-Team heroines (except maybe Kat James), somehow tend to end up being overly sensitive to a lot of things. I'm not saying that Holly is without compassion or anything, quite the opposite, but she also never got faint or anything at the slightest evidence of evil. She took things in stride, did her job, saved the world, and moved on.
But this review is about Hard Target, so let's go back to Jenna and Derek.
Truth is, while this book was pretty entertaining and attention-hooking, I did find that I wished it had been a bit more fleshed out. Hard Target is a pretty standard romance, featuring the standard hero and heroine with hearts of gold, who are just great people all around and no flaws. Story-wise, our author does well to bring awareness to the terrible treatment of women in Afghanistan, the lack of women's health, the lack of prenatal care, and the lack of, or even unwillingness to understand the importance of it all. We get to see how even a Westerner like Jenna is expected to abide by cultural dictates--not speaking or even being seen in the presence of men she is not related to, as it somehow is seen as her attempting to tempt men and be flirtatious, which is evil. We get to see how her one time breaking of the cultural rule, albeit out of the goodness of trying to save a young mother and her baby, almost caused trouble to the hospital that could have ended in her being beaten and flogged.
It's a terribly horrific thing to even think about.
The story progression itself presented well, but I feel like the entire book and each scene was a bit short and rushed. Maybe that was just me. The romance between Derek and Jenna was typical of Pamela Clare's love stories, but I DID like that Jenna was so open about her wants and her desires in a non-traditional romance heroine kind of way. As per usual, the action and suspense was good, even if some parts might have been a bit overmuch.
And once again, I liked seeing Holly again, and hope to see more brief cameos from her in future... of course, only if we can naturally slip her into the story. =P
All-in-all, a pretty good start to a new series, even if I feel like it still had potential to be seen.
How it fits: Book is set in Afghanistan
Page Count: 261