St Martin’s Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-250-08340-1
Romantic Suspense, 2017
The Protector is book two in the Sons of Texas series, and its plot is carried over from the previous book The Hero. Therefore, it may be a good idea to read that book first before tackling this one. This review probably contains some points that can be considered spoilers for that previous book, but given how skimpy the whole plot thread actually is, I personally feel that nothing is lost even if you end up spoiled. But if you insist, there are many other things to see on this website, so be off with you.
Anyway, where we last left off, Orrin, the Loughman patriarch, is still missing. This is what he gets for being a super secret agent in possession of a “bioweapon” and operating from his brother’s farm, and frankly, I’m supposed to care for the fate of this very stupid, stupid man when he’d already caused the deaths of his brother and sister-in-law along with his buddies and what not, and is now dragging his sons into the mess. Of course, the author cares – she needs an excuse to sell people a trilogy, after all – so here we are. The fate of the world hangs in the balance, it’s up to America to save the day, et cetera, and oh, what everyone thought initially to be a Russian plot is now a wide globe-spanning one. It’s probably George Soros, but hey, let’s wait to the end to see whether this is indeed the case.
So, it is now Cullen Loughman’s turn to take up the task of locating daddy, now that his brother had finally found his ball and chain and hence can be safely removed from the front line. He meets ex-Air Force pilot Mia Carter, whom he then enlists to aid him. She has secrets, however, and trust issues. And given that this is a modern day romantic suspense, she is also an independent, liberated sidekick and damsel in distress. Are you shocked? You must be new to the genre: despite the author plying Mia with glowing superlatives about the heroine’s kick-assery, traditional gender roles still apply. Mia is never allowed to rise above the sidekick level on a good day. We can’t have some third-rate woman overshadowing the hero, after all, they are just literary devices for romance readers to project their burning, yearning desire for twenty-inch military penises in uniform in an OH MY GOD I NEED A MARINE DUDE INSIDE ME NOW SO BAD, I AM GOING TO DRY HUMP THIS BOOK FOR 72-HOURS STRAIGHT way.
In fact, the opening scene has Cullen telling me how awesome the heroine is in kicking ass and what not… in the same scene where he comes to rescue Mia from being skewered and made a pee-pee pincushion for Colombian drug pushers. I don’t know whether the author is mocking me, completely oblivious to how she is contradicting herself in her own scene, or that she genuinely believes that a kickass heroine is one that does that lip-service “I’m feisty and say sassy things in the face of danger but… oops, help me?” thing. If Mia is kickass like Cullen keeps telling me so many times throughout this book, then the bar for female kick-assery is indeed low.
You may be wondering what exciting things will happen in this book. Maybe Mia is bit on the dud side – but she looks good holding a gun and pointing it at the bad guys while the hero is standing nearby to make sure that she doesn’t hurt herself, for what it’s worth! – but maybe the action hero manages to duck through explosions, or maybe he pummels a hapless Russian terrorist to death with his bare fists, perhaps. Well, don’t get too excited – this story is almost all talk and exposition with very little action. The action scenes that do show up are short, quickly resolved, and everyone is then back to talking about what has happened and what they want to do, what they are feeling, how they want to have sex with one another, and the heroine of course also mulls over her angst and issues a lot. The Protector, as a result, ends up a complete snooze.
Like Mia, Cullen is also described in glowing superlatives, but he only delivers a little of what he is advertised to be. Still, he’s better than Mia, whom Cullen marvels at for being able to do everything and anything, when in reality, our heroine conforms in a very disappointingly large degree to the typical female sidekick/damsel in distress/heroine who needs a man to boink her into being happy again archetype.
Even the romance is all talked out, so to speak. There is no discernible romantic development; the hero just keeps telling me how awesome Mia is and how perfect she is for him (and every time he does this, Mia stands out increasingly more and more as false advertising in action) while the heroine keeps beating me in the head about how hot and sexy Cullen is. They have sex and then, ooh, it’s love. Of course, you can argue that maybe they are too busy looking for Orrin, but that’s not the case here. These two spend a lot of time lusting after the other person to a point where I wonder whether Cullen remembers that, in addition to a MIA daddy, he has also lost an uncle and aunt. The emotions of the main characters never feel real. They seem to be going through the motions, instead.
Come to think of it, going through the motions is how I’d describe the entire book. The author takes a lot of short cuts here. Instead of describing scenes, she just has the characters talk about it. Instead of having Cullen do anything to discover that Mia is in trouble, the author has him experiencing some kind of spider sense that she is in danger – complete with italics and exclamation marks – and make Cullen go into overprotective hero mode ASAP. This one tries very hard to resemble an action-packed romantic suspense with action heroes and the heroines who trot behind them, acting sassy and secretly yearning for a man to help them sort out their issues, but the author seems reluctant to make the effort to flesh out her story into something even halfway believable or entertaining.
I’m very tempted to give The Protector one oogie, but in the end, I realize that the main characters don’t irritate me and the lazy short cuts in this story don’t exasperate me as much as they normally would. This is because, ultimately, I’m so bored by the whole talk-heavy nature of this story that I can’t muster any feeling, good or bad, for it. So, two oogies? Whatever, don’t care.