by Lori Foster, contemporary (2003)
Brava, $14.00, ISBN 0-7582-0548-1

Good grief, another month, another Lori Foster book. Maybe they should change that "Brava" name to "Lori & Friends" or something.

Unexpected is not a good Lori Foster book. It is not a bad book either. It's just boring. The plot in this book cannot even sustain a measley 266 pages, so the author fills up the pages with vapid conversations or just plain unadventurous vanilla sex. This book must really be boring if the back blurb actually hypes up the spoiler that happens in the last four chapters of the book and this spoiler is shown in the cover illustration as well. When one has to grasp for straws to write a back blurb that involves more than only the last letter in the alphabets...

The thing is, Unexpected shouldn't be boring. It stars a female mercenary named Ray Jean Vereker and she's supposed to be tough as nails. She's hired for one last (hopefully) mission that will give her enough money to get her brother out of trouble. This mission involves her accompanying and protecting Eli Conners as he tries to save his brother from Spanish-speaking guerrillas. Unfortunately, instead of fireworks and bullet dancing over rainforest canopy, all I have instead is insipid babbling and mundane sex.

The biggest problem of this book is that it portrays Ray as a strong woman only to have the woman slowly showing the readers how Ray is actually "female" (read: tedious psychobabbles abounds such as how "real women" should want children and other silly archaic stereotypings). This actually becomes the main plot of the book instead of that save-the-brother thing. The whole "Ray is really a real woman" plot is not only eyeball-rolling, it's also dull because its archaic stereotyping is overdone. Anything that has been around for the last two centuries has to be overdone after all. What happened to the Ripleys and the Xenas? Oh look, I get Ray instead. Ugh.

Then there's Eli. Give me a break - this man starts out questioning Ray's "femininity" only to end up acting like a complete sissy himself. What kind of man will spend his time asking Ray personal questions about her social life? The bulk of the "romance" in this book see Eli being a noseyparker and Ray thinking how wonderful that a man, for the first time, cares about her enough to ask intrusive questions. Eli isn't even the typical alpha Lori Foster hero. Now, normally I would be happy when an author tries to stretch her capabilities by writing different sorts of heroes and heroines, but Eli is a complete bore because I have a hard time even discerning whether that fellow has any personality.

Readers expecting adventures will also be disappointed - the author prefers to keep most of the action scenes to the background. Instead, there are silliness galore: Eli never being in love so he will marry for the sake of building his daddy's business and this insipid Other Woman is as silly as they come. But here's my favorite: this silly woman can successfully sneak up on our supposedly superheroic main characters! Likewise, Eli's brother in captivity moans and groans because his main concern is that he'd lost his camera, can't take photos, and so his entire trip is wasted.

I feel really awful giving this book less than a stellar review because it is very obvious that, the single dip into a popular plot device late in the story aside, Lori Foster is obviously stretching out to try something new here. Eli is definitely not the usual alpha type hero one comes to expect from the author and this story's setting is not something one expects from the author. But with Unexpected so unmemorable and even limpid at places, I can't help feeling that Ms Foster ends up stretching the limits of my ability to stay awake instead. An author doing unexpected is good, but this Unexpected being this flat is... well, unexpected.

Rating: 57

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