September 2012, Romantic Suspense
Carina Press, $5.99, 234 pages
This book is available at Amazon and other eBook retailers.
With romantic suspense, fantastic settings and plenty of intrigue go a long way, but a truly good read needs more than that. If the main characters don't come alive on the page and the reader has trouble connecting to them, a promising read can turn lackluster. In His Sights suffers from this issue and, as a result, a book that starts as a heartstopping thriller turns ordinary far too soon.
Cole Scalini's team waits outside the American Embassy in Angola, hoping a hostage situation can be defused in time to allow for the rescue of embassy employees. A man with a bomb strapped to him stands in front, holding Dr. Callista Nascimento hostage. In a tense scene, we watch with Cole as he sets himself up to take the one shot that might free Callie without the bomb exploding. Cole succeeds and rescues Callie in what turns into the first eyeroll-inducing moment of the book, where instead of expressing gratitude, Callie scolds Cole for killing the poor terrorist.
Due to various complications, Cole and Callie cannot leave with the rest of the embassy staff, so they must stay alive for several days while travelling across Angola to rendezvous with an extraction team. The main complication? Callie is pregnant. As it turns out, Callie volunteered to act as a surrogate for her sister. The sister died in a recent plane crash, so now Callie plans to turn the child over to her sister's widower, a U.S. Senator who she trusts will do everything in his power to see her safely rescued from Angola.
It's obvious that the author did her homework with regard to the book's setting. The backdrop of instability in Angola, with the characters caught up in the tensions between the government and rebel factions, makes for exciting reading. As Cole and Callie travel across terrain strewn with dangerous animals, abandoned minefields, and other assorted hazards, one never knows exactly who will turn out to be trustworthy. Though the civil war in Angola has ended, one gets the sense that all is not entirely peaceful and this leads to the key mystery in the story: Who wants Cole and Callie dead and why?
While the setting and suspense plot kept my attention, the romance did not. The emotional tension between Cole and Callie certainly felt believable at times as the struggle to make it to the rendezvous point alive requires all kinds of teamwork. However, both Cole and Callie's characters felt terribly flat at times. Callie is a psychiatrist, but the author goes way overboard in portraying her as an idealistic healer whose seemingly overpowering need to fix people overwhelms her common sense. And then there's Cole. Most of the time Cole seems like an extremely competent military man and decent human being, but whenever the story seemed to call for a little vulnerability from the hero, his childhood ADHD diagnosis and the massive chip on his shoulder resulting therefrom gets laid on with an unrealistically heavy hand. Tension between the hero and heroine can be necessary in order to set the emotional stage for a story, but this felt forced.
In addition to those issues, Callie's pregnancy certainly bears mentioning. On the one hand, the author did a good job of sprinkling references to the baby throughout the story without overwhelming the reader with constant baby talk. However, Callie seemed to be having the most convenient pregnancy ever. She showed no real symptoms aside from mentioning that she needed to use the bathroom and she also alternated inconsistently between obsessing over the baby's wellbeing and then rushing into TSTL situations seemingly without a thought of the child she carried.
In the end, the various twists and turns of the suspense plot kept me reading as I wanted to see The Big Reveal and I found the setting fascinating stuff. However, the romance just didn't work for me. And since the romance spends a fair amount of time front and center in this book, In His Sights winds up as a pretty average read.
-- Lynn Spencer
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