Publisher: Harlequin Books

Guest Review: Man of Action by Janie Crouch

Posted June 24, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Man of Action by Janie CrouchReviewer: Jen
Man of Action by Janie Crouch
Series: Omega Sector: Critical Response #4
Published by Harlequin Books
Publication Date: June 21st 2016
Genres: Romance, Suspense, Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 288
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two-stars

He was a man of action—especially when it came to protecting his new undercover partner…

At nineteen, Andrea Gordon's life was forever changed. After proving herself instrumental in a bank hostage crisis, she became one of Omega Sector's top agents. Four years later, her skill at reading people is unrivaled—until she meets fellow profiler Brandon Han. Paired together to track a serial killer who has been targeting at-risk women, the two become entangled beyond the case. Their mutual attraction deepens as they get closer to the truth. But when Andrea's own sordid past surfaces, they will both be forced to question everything about the assignment…and each other.

I have been reading the Omega Sector and Omega Sector: Critical Response books by Janie Crouch for a while now, and while they’re not exactly ground breaking, they’ve been solid Intrigue series, so I was looking forward to the newest title. While I appreciated the somewhat ambitious themes the author took on in this book, I got so damn frustrated with the hero. The more I thought about the book, the more angry I got at him, so here I am to review rant.

Omega is an elite federal law enforcement team that handles “special cases.” I’m a little fuzzy on their precise mission, but they seem to help local law enforcement with tricky cases, hunt down terrorists, you know the drill. In this book, Agent Brandon Han and Andrea Gordon are assigned to help catch a serial killer. Andrea is not technically a field agent, but she’s called into this case because of her incredible abilities to read people and because the murders are taking place in her hometown. Brandon is the agency’s top profiler and a literal genius, and he is not happy about being partnered with the very young, standoffish Andrea. For her part, Andrea is not happy either because her hometown holds nothing but terrible memories, and she’s terrified someone at Omega will find out about her past. Andrea has to come to terms with her past, and Brandon has to help her, until he screws it all up (more on that later).

Andrea is interesting and my favorite part of the book. She’s only in her early twenties but she has achieved a lot, even if she wouldn’t agree. She grew up with an abusive uncle, running away from home when she was still a teen to live in her car and work menial jobs until finally getting a job as a stripper to support herself. When she accidentally helps Omega catch a bank robber using her uncanny ability to read people, they recruit her. She has major insecurities born out of her abusive childhood and the fact that she’s dyslexic, so to protect herself she acts standoffish and remote to her colleagues. She dropped out of high school, though once at Omega she got her GED and started on some college courses. You can imagine how a very young, very shy, and very intimidated young girl would feel way out of her league at an elite law enforcement agency, especially one that employs geniuses like Brandon. Seeing Andrea start to recognize her talents and give herself credit for all her very hard won successes was awesome!

Right from the start, though, Brandon is an entitled, selfish dickhole. He instantly judges her as an ice queen because she keeps to herself. He thinks she’s lazy because she doesn’t read the case notes he gives her right away (instead she stays up half the night in her hotel room so she can read them alone and concentrate, so fuck you Brandon). He assumes she won’t be prepared to meet with local police and is shocked when she shows she does in fact have some skills. But lots of books start out with a case of misinterpretation, and it didn’t bother me until he just keeps up the judging. It all comes to a head when Andrea reluctantly goes undercover as a server at a strip club to try to help catch the killer. Based on a few minutes simply watching her (not, you know, a conversation with her or anything), Brandon decides she’s enjoying herself too much and therefore she’s a slut who likes other men to leer at her. What the actual fuck?! He knows she hated her past and only went undercover to stop more murders, and even if she DID like it screw him because there’s nothing wrong with it! Andrea, who is already massively ashamed of her past and miserable that she’s forced to be back doing the work she hates, even temporarily, is heartbroken by his withdrawal and the disdain he’s obviously communicating. Keep in mind, this is AFTER he learned about her abusive past and how she ran away, AFTER she’s confessed her shame and insecurities, AFTER they’ve slept together several times, and AFTER he claimed to understand and admire her.

Now, I want to be fair and point out that the book itself wasn’t slut shaming Andrea. Many characters go out of their way to highlight that there is nothing wrong with what she did, and in fact she should be admired for surviving. My issue was specifically with Brandon. I grade books, in part, on how much I believe in the couple and in their compatibility. I did not believe Brandon deserved Andrea–he deserved a swift kick in the junk, and she deserved a much better hero. I might have gotten over his behavior if a) it had taken place earlier in the story before he really knew Andrea, b) it had just been a minor thought that his genius brain quickly discarded because clearly everything he had learned about Andrea contradicted this interpretation, or c) he had done a major, massive, epic grovel to make up for it. Instead it happens later in the book, the big man-baby whines about it for days, and he only offers up a weak AF apology after two separate people had to put him in his place. Moreover, the whole thing felt like an awkward device to add conflict. Brandon can pick up on the most minute details of facial expressions and behaviors–he should have been able to read Andrea. I guess we’re supposed to think it’s because his judgment is clouded by love, but nope, I’m not buying it.

I love reading Intrigues specifically because I like the shorter length sometimes, but in this case I actually think this story really needed more pages. Besides the relationship conflict, there was a lot going on in this book, with a complicated murder investigation, confrontations with people from Andrea’s past, and this tension between genius and “darkness” in Brandon that really didn’t get fully explored. I wanted to see more of Andrea’s self-actualization, and I wanted to see more of Brandon genuinely supporting her in that process. I think with some more pages to develop and more time for Brandon to actually show learning and growth, I would have believed in this HEA. While I’ll happily keep reading the series, this book left me thinking Andrea could do so much better.

Grade: 2 out of 5

two-stars

Review: Beyond All Reason by Judith Duncan

Posted February 29, 2008 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Beyond All Reason by Judith DuncanReviewer: Holly
Beyond All Reason by Judith Duncan
Series: Wide Open Spaces #1
Published by Harlequin Books
Publication Date: 1993
Genres: Fiction, Romance, General
Pages: 248
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three-half-stars

With two young sons to look out for and her vengeful ex on their trail, Kate Quinn thought the Circle S looked like the perfect place to hide out. They could build a new life, a safe life. And if love never came her way, so what?

But she hadn't counted on Tanner McCall, the intimidating half-breed who ran the ranch with an iron fist--and a closed heart. Something about Tanner got to her, making her dream of love under the stars and becoming a family at last.

Beyond All Reason is the first book in Judith Duncan‘s Wide Open Spaces series which center around three siblings in a small town in Canada.

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I first found out about this series years ago and had been searching for the first two books for years. I finally found them at my local UBS and dove right in.

Kate Quinn is on the run from her soon-to-be ex-husband. Although he agreed to a divorce, he got nasty halfway through it and keeps threatening to take her kids away. After the last time he tracked her down (by her sons medical records) she sees an ad in a newspaper for a live in nurse at a ranch just outside of Bolton. Seeing this as a sign, she calls Tanner McCall and applies for the job. The ranch is miles from anything and Kate knows it’s the perfect place to hide until she can figure out what to do.

But she isn’t prepared for Tanner McCall. Instead of the aging rancher she envisioned, she’s young and virile, and the pain she glimpses in his eyes – and the aloof way he holds himself – touches something inside of her. Suddenly, she’s faced with the possibility of a future for her and her sons. But Tanner has been scarred by a difficult past, and he isn’t willing to let someone get close to him. Especially someone who won’t commit to the future.

Here’s the thing. I absolutely adored The Return of Eden McCall, the third book in this series. But one of the reasons I did is because we saw things from both Eden and Brodie’s POV, as opposed to just one. In this novel, the focus is solely on Kate, with not POV written for Tanner. I think this seriously detracted from the story.

Kate is a compelling and likable heroine, but because we never see anything from Tanner’s POV, and because he’s reserved, aloof and barely talks, we never really got a sense of just who and what he was. We learn about his past through Kate. He’s the bastard son of the wealthiest man in town, and although he was close to his father (who lived with him and his mother) when he was a small child, that changed when he was 5 or 6 and his father came back from an out of town business trip with a rich wife on his arm, completely shocking his mother, who had no idea. She dies a short time later and he’s shuffled from one place to the next, because his father’s new wife refuses to have him underfoot. He suffered extreme abuse in one foster home, and was even sexually abused by some of his father’s “friends”.

But Tanner himself never talks about this, or opens up to Kate. She learns about his past from various friends and family members. So although I knew her extremely well, I didn’t know Tanner at all.

Eventually Kate realizes she need to clear up her past before she can make a future with Tanner, but again, I’m confused about how she came to the conclusion a future with Tanner was a possibility. He never mentions anything about caring for her, or wanting her to be a part of whatever future he had. We’re led to believe (by Kate) that it’s because she hasn’t committed to him, but I just didn’t find the HEA believable in this case.

Not a terrible story, but not an entirely great one, either. The writing is stellar and the secondary characters are wonderful, providing much comic relief to an otherwise somber, solemn novel. But I wouldn’t hunt down a copy just because if I were you.

3.5 out of 5

I plan to review the remaining two novels in this series later today, but I will tell you now they’re both much better than this one.

Beyond All Reason
That Same Old Feeling
The Return of Eden McCall

This book is no longer in print, but you can buy it used here.

three-half-stars