St Martin’s Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-250-08339-5
Romantic Suspense, 2016
The Hero is the first book in the Sons of Texas series, which reunites three action hero brothers as they figure out their MIA father’s whereabouts, locate a “bioweapon”, track down who kill their other family members, and fall in love along the way. All three brothers are, naturally, buff and puffed up all ready to kick ass, while the heroines all know how to wave documents and glower like the clerical badasses they are. What, heroines that kick ass? Don’t be silly – we don’t want to be breaking too many gender norms today.
You can blame the idiot father Orrin Loughman. He’s a secret agent fellow who likes to take on unsanctioned gigs. Fair enough, if he wants to be Chuck Norris kicking Russians’ teeth in, but he then bases his operations on his brother’s farm. So now, that brother and the brother’s wife are both dead. Way to go, Orrin – smooth, really smooth there. Orrin is then MIA – no, he’s not hiding in shame – but that’s after he gets our heroine Natalie Dixon into his mess, just by asking her whether she knows of something called Ragnarok. She doesn’t, but people saw her talking to Orrin and she’s immediately on the hit list. Even better, Natalie stumbles upon a document with that word on her boss’s desk at the embassy, and later, when she tries to have a look at it, ends up accidentally taking a document that turns out to be – ta-da – a contract on her life!
Is it just me or are these people a little too quick to hand out contracts on people’s life, considering that they could have at least captured her first, pulled out her fingernails and teeth in order to find out what she knows, et cetera? Surely torturing information out of her would cost less than hiring someone to kill her. Then again, it’s their money, I suppose.
At any rate, Natalie and her friend – who’s clearly earmarked to be the receptacle of one of the other brother’s effusive gushes of love in a future book, because she and he, like, OMG hate one another – are now holed up in the failed spy Orrin’s place with Owen, the son that Natalie conveniently has had a thing for since forever, along with the two other brothers. Can they figure out what is happening and are the Russians really conspiring with Donald Trump to take over America and sell it to the Martians?
This one is pretty over the top at places, with the three brothers turning out to be action heroes powered to the max while the heroines are all… er, good at standing there looking useful when they don’t really do anything that useful. But they are sassy, and that counts for a lot! Along the way, the author relies on coincidences, unlucky accidents, and people deliberately keeping things to themselves until it’s convenient for the plot too often for my liking. Not to mention, I sometimes feel like the author is making things up as she goes along. But still, these things are not necessarily bad for a story – if done right, they can all come together in one campy, ridiculous story. This one is almost there – almost but not quite, sadly, as the author doesn’t throw caution to the wind and go all YOLO on everyone. This one needs to be more ridiculous in order to be a campy kind of fun. By not embracing the camp, it is hard to overlook the flaws in the suspense, such as the lack of a strong threat or villain to anchor the story and keep the momentum going.
The characters are all stock action hero and accessory heroine archetypes. Oh, and he left her ages ago for her safety, blah blah blah. Which leads me to the biggest failing of this story – it fails to balance romance and suspense in a believable manner. There are two dead bodies in the next room, and our main characters will be mooning over the sight of one another, the hero sporting a big fat woody in his pants. Whenever the characters should be focused on the mission or on staying safe, they will gaze at their navels and go into internal monologues about how badly they want to sleep with the other person. The love thing comes out abruptly – maybe because the story is coming to a close – and all in all, it is hard to take this story seriously because the main characters act as if dead people and missing fathers are just minor distractions in their navel-gazing quest to fall in love.
The Hero doesn’t have a strong romance or suspense, making it a weaksauce start of a series. I can only hope the next book will be a stronger read.