Grand Central Publishing, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4555-3605-4
Contemporary Romance, 2016
While Ultimate Courage is packaged like a romantic suspense story – just look at the title and the cover art – it is actually a rather standard “heroine on the run from a bad ex, protected by hunky hot new beau” story. No saving the world from terrorists, no dramatic military action, nothing of that sort, so adjust your expectations accordingly if you want to read this one.
Alex Rojas has left the Navy SEAL, but he’d need some time still to adjust to being a civilian. He has a daughter to raise, but there are times when he gets paranoid about potential threats or attacks even during the most mundane moments in everyday life. He and his buddies run Hope’s Crossing Kennels, where they offer doggy classes as well as sessions to help traumatized dogs or dogs with problematic behaviors. When the new receptionist Elisa Hall shows up, Alex is definitely interested, but our heroine is clearly jittery and has something to hide.
Much about this story is familiar run-of-the-mill contemporary romance stuff. Elisa is the vulnerable and scared sort who needs protecting, but she also has to be lippy and sassy to prove that she’s not that weak, and the author doesn’t always succeed in reconciling these two aspects of the heroine, making the poor darling come off like a character whose attitude and behavior will change based on plot requirements. Alex is a standard action hero with some mental baggage, one that we can count on to save the day and act all protective and blustery while he’s at it. Alex’s friends naturally want to see him hook up with Elisa because all they need is one look at her to know that she’s the one for Alex. And so forth.
Oh, and Alex’s creepy-annoying girl. If you have been around here long enough, you’d know that very few kid characters endear themselves to me, and the creature in this one is another one of those that make me want to grab a crucifix and pray the demon away. Serena, whose nickname is Boom, is very chatty to strangers, often saying those precocious cute things romance authors seem to love in a “forty-year old creepy woman giggling and pretending to be a child” way, and generally making me wonder whether Alex should have a word with that brat about being too friendly to people that she does not know. Fortunately, Boom isn’t always in the story, so there are some blessed moments of respite from this creature’s presence.
Ultimately, Ultimate Courage is just too generic for its own good. Its flaws are typical flaws of a very average story of this sort, and it doesn’t help that this one lacks suspense or anything that would have made it feel less like yet another routine travel down a path that has been taken many, many times before. As for its strengths, well, I suppose the sentences are coherently strung together, and it is a painless read despite it being so formulaic and blah. I don’t feel that it is particularly awful, but I don’t feel that it is in any way interesting either. I’m just bored from start to finish – this book defines the word “indifferent” perfectly where I am concerned.