Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-233007-9
Romantic Suspense, 2015
I don’t know what the people who did the cover were thinking. The only reason a guy would thrust his rear end to one’s face is because he wants the world to admire his shapely, taut, rounded bubble butt. The guy on the cover not only has a butt that looks like an ironing board, it is obscured by words. Hello, is there any intelligent life in the art department? We want flat stomach, rounded butt – not the other way around!
Anyway, this story. Falling Hard is book two in the Bad Boys Undercover series, one of the many concurrent “band of brothers” action adventure series being put out by Avon – I guess their acquisition editor is really into movies that feature the likes of Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson in the lead? – and this one can stand alone just fine. Why? Because the entire thing doesn’t make much sense if one thinks too hard about things, whether or not one has read the previous book. Just think of the story as, simply, “Explosions. They happen. Deal with it. We’re just here to drool over the hot guy.”
Lexi Turner runs a clinic in Pakistan in her father’s absence. An insomniac, she one day spotted what seems like people smuggling weapons, so she does what any rational American chick in Pakistan would do: she notifies the American male (with a few token Brits and, oh, hi, token chick) covert-ops group instead of anyone else nearby. That makes sense: everyone in this world is in bed with those stinking terrorists and it is up to Team America – FUCK YEAH! – to come again and save the motherfucking day – FUCK YEAH! Well, she gets what she asks for. Here’s Weston Brown with his big gun and cocky attitude. Now, all they need to do is to blow up things, kill some people, and have sex, and we can all call it a day and pre-order the next book in the series.
While reading this book, I find myself wondering why it is so rare to find a sober, sophisticated romantic spy and espionage thriller. Is it because we don’t have authors who write this kind of thing, or is it because such books don’t sell? At any rate, HelenKay Dimon relies on the tried-and-true formula of having her characters mouth off even during inappropriate moments – everyone wants to be Joss Whedon these days – when they are not lusting after one another, also during inappropriate moments. Well, I suppose it is appropriate if you can imagine that, when you are held at a gun stand-off, right after people have tried to kill you, you can take time to note how hot that guy holding the gun is. Or during the next few hours, you’d be daydreaming and analyzing your feelings for that man. I suppose that counts for “emotional drama”. The hero is less complicated – he can get hot and thirsty for Lexi at a drop of a hat, regardless of circumstances.
There are token mentions of West having some traumatic flashbacks to his unpleasant time in this area in the past, but on the whole, he is basically any character played by The Rock – nothing fazes him, and there is little vulnerability seen. Therefore, he’s basically a one-man tank, with nary a suspense about the non-existent possibility of him failing at anything, with perpetual “horny” mode on. Meanwhile, the heroine can always find the time to argue and offer sarcastic retorts when she’s not daydreaming about the hero’s big fat gun, pretending that she’s deeper than the average lust-crazed Justin Bieber fan because she can take time to analyze her feelings when any other sane person would be concentrating on getting out of her predicament alive. Predictably, the heroine is also of the “Eeek! Dead people killed by other people! I’m so traumatized, I need the hero’s penis inside me now!” variety – you have one chance to guess how the first sex scene comes about.
As a result, it is hard to take Falling Hard seriously. Take it as it is: a thinly-veiled excuse for people to drool over what is basically a GI Joe action figure indulging in sexy moments with the heroine. In the meantime, explosions happen and bullets fly while sequel baits flex their muscles and make sarcastic retorts – sort of like commercials during the break. Everything before and after the sexy moments are just warm-up, like a Chippendale routine before they take off their military uniform to reveal their bedazzled thongs.
And this is where the book fumbles greatly. It is already halfway down the route to being over the top dumb to the point of being adorable, but it never actually goes all the way. Therefore, Falling Hard is still such that it is very easy to interpret the silliness as the author’s efforts to cover up the fact that she is making things up as she goes along – when in doubt, have people shoot or blow things up – and that the end result is a work of occasional accidental comedy. The author should have let her hair down more. Have the hero and the heroine have sex while hanging on for dear life from a rope ladder barely holding on to a helicopter, for instance, or put in a giant killer gorilla somewhere. One can’t go wrong with giant killer gorillas.