“From the moment she learns the CIA has put out a burn and delete notice on Richard "Rock" Babineaux, Black Knights operator and, apparently, CIA spy, everything in communication specialist Vanessa Cordova rebels. She's had feelings for the man since the first time she heard his slow Cajun drawl, but more than that, she partnered with him on a recent undercover op and she just can't believe the man she knows has committed the heinous crimes the CIA is accusing him of committing.
With the full weight of the Black Knights' support behind her, Vanessa is determined to help Rock clear his name. She just has to find him first.
He's been in the wind for six months and Rock knows he has to keep his head down as he scrambles to figure out who screwed him and set him up. Practically buried in a South American jungle, alone, he's running out of options, resources, and leads, but he's resolute about not risking his friends. Until one fiery and magnificent woman crashes into his jungle and blows his best intentions straight to the same hell he'll likely be getting an up close and personal tour of all too soon.
The dangerously tempting Vanessa has found him, but by doing so, Rock knows unless he manages a miracle, she's likely doomed them both.
This fourth book in a series that has posed varying problems for me since its debut is definitely my favorite, though it's not without some large issues. Unlike its predecessors, however, I found myself entertained despite them. Walker's humor, which is sometimes silly but usually geeky and cute, is more prevalent in the narrative, and there were none of the darker, sadistic scenes I found so jarring in previous books. There's a ton of action which appealed, and plenty of sexy goodness to raise the temperature. The plot wasn't quite as layered as some of the previous books, but sometimes simple is, if not better, at least no worse.
All in all, I liked this book, though there were definitely elements that made me cringe a little. Or a lot.
I loved Rock, even with his persistent and repetitive warning against Vanessa loving him. He was strong and self-sacrificing, sexy and absolutely delicious. Vanessa, frankly, couldn't hold a candle to him, which is a huge shame, because I thought she was going to when she was first introduced in the previous book. Unfortunately, instead of strengthening her character in this book, broadening it and intensifying it, Walker went another route.
From competent and savvy communications specialist to crying (and oh my god, the crying!), wailing, screaming, stumbling, scared of the dark, horny emotional idiot whose entire existence seemed to revolve around her desire to make Rock love her, Vanessa's character went through a serious deconstruction in this book. I was completely boggled by it, and her personality grated on me before I was into the third chapter.
So did Rock going on and on to himself about how magnificent she was every single time he sees her. Like telling us he thought she was all things hot, courageous, and brilliant was supposed to convince us she was all those things despite all manner of evidence to the contrary. I'm not quite so easy to convince. One single scene in which she was faced with a difficult situation and didn't burst into tears or have some sort of emotional meltdown would've been far more effective. So would having her alleged excellence in her field serve as more than a transitory benefit in the story.
Unfortunately, it didn't happen.
Other than Becky, featured romantic heroine of the second book and a strong secondary character in this one, there hasn't been a female character that hasn't been a weeping, weak, nervous, shy, innocent stereotype of every bad romance novel cliche. And while that's normally a huge hot button of mine and slams the brakes on my interest in a book or a series, there has so far been enough good in these books to keep me reading. And there was enough in this one to actually entertain me regardless.
I'm worried about the next book, though. Nothing about Becky's friend and Wild Bill's former (and obviously not-so-former) crush Eve has indicated she's not exactly that same sort of weak heroine that's been bugging me since the beginning of the series. In fact, she's been drawn as a shy, nervous, uber-rich debutante, and I'm not exactly brimming with enthusiasm about that personality type filling out a main plot arc.
With this book, Walker seems to have finished straddling the line between light and serious romantic suspense and has come down on the lighter side. That works for me, as I've always thought the straddling was doing the series no favors. Plus I like humor and several scenes in this book made me chuckle to myself. Personally, I hope this is indicative of how the series intends to continue from this point. Now, if it could just put forth a heroine that doesn't make me roll my eyes, piss me off, or embarrass the hell out of me to be a woman, we'll be golden. But I won't hold my breath.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Sourcebooks Casablanca publisher Sourcebooks via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.