Man of Action by Janie Crouch
Series: Omega Sector: Critical Response #4
Publication Date: June 21st 2016
Genres: Romantic Suspense
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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
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