Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-059123-4
Romantic Suspense, 2005
Gennita Low’s The Hunter confuses me, I must admit. There are some scenes that seem to be set-ups for some campy adult movie with a “plot” that parodies a secret agent movie but the tone of the story doesn’t seem campy all the time at all. This book isn’t as down-to-earth in tone as, say, a Michele Albert story but at the same time it isn’t all-out “Watch out below, plot truck coming atcha and we’re gonna cra-aa-ash!” wacko city like a Cherry Adair book. It’s a mix of both with abrupt transformation zone from one to the other.
Hawk McMillan is a Navy SEAL sent as the latest correspondent for our heroine Amber Hutchens, a CIA operative involving in smashing white slavery rings. He has a mission: after going undercover and being the best buddy to Dragan Dilaver, our villain from Kosovo who seems to have his finger in every heinous crime you can think of, he now has to locate an assignment of terrible weapons dropped off… somewhere… for our Dragan Dilaver here. “Somewhere” can be anywhere from Albania to Montenegro. Perhaps using Amber’s cozy little diner in Velesta, Macedonia will be the way to go about doing things.
Early on I worry that this story is going to be one of those Sexy Hot Babe Commandos in Bikinis events when our heroine fondles the hero’s private parts after she and her buddy have knocked him out cold. The knocking him out cold thing is supposed to be their “test” – apparently the previous guys sent to liaise with them aren’t of much use. The story however takes on a pretty sober note when Hawk starts channeling all kinds of angst about having to pretend to be Dragan’s best buddy and kindred spirit for so long. But just when the story threatens to become more sober, then up comes some “sexy” scenes that are more campy than erotic, especially when how the over the top qualities of these scenes don’t go well with the more angst-ridden parts of the story. The secondary romance involving Amber’s buddies and co-workers have a more mysterious quality to it because, unlike Amber whose personality doesn’t have much shades of grey, Lily is more of an enigma when she first shows up. However, soon that developing secondary romance begins to exhibit the same over-the-top touches when it comes to the characters’ sexual situations.
While I believe I can easily enjoy Ms Low’s storyline in this story, I wish there are fewer melodramatic scenes involving sex because on the whole, this story isn’t that action-paced. Like many of the author’s previous books, the promises of excitement remain just that, promises. Amber isn’t as kick-ass as I would like her to be – here she plays the sidekick, spending more time talking, worrying about the hero’s safety, or thinking about having sex with him. Hawk is a pretty stereotypical action hero with little depths underneath his Navy SEAL persona, apart from his obsessive focus on sex when he’s not thinking about saving the world. Still, a superficial hero will still be good if the story delivers non-stop action scenes. The Hunter, however, delivers more pyrotechnics in its sometimes silly sexual situations. Too often the characters are just talking. And yes, Lily still has time to interrogate Amber on her sex life. Be it a chick-lit story or an action romance, some things will never change.
In the end, The Hunter confuses me. It is sold as an exciting action-driven romance, but the pace of the story is actually quite sedate at times. Sometimes the characters seem cartoonishly obsessed about sex at the unlikeliest of times and places, sometimes the tone of the story is more down-to-earth like a Suzanne Brockmann novel. It is as if this book changes from chapter to chapter like a chameleon working overtime. All that unpredictability in this story eventually leads to a very predictable denouement when our heroine is all trussed up and waiting to be rescued, however. Oh well.