Monday, March 3, 2008

Highly Improbable and a Whole Lot of Fun

The Mercenary
By Cherry Adair

Cherry Adair’s T-FLAC operatives are the ultimate alpha males, combining the sexiness of James Bond with the kind of “Mere bullets and bad guys can’t stop me sweetheart” toughness of the classic hardboiled PI novels. Marc Savin, the original, baddest, sexiest operative of them all, is back in an expanded version of The Mercenary, the story that launched T-FLAC in 1994.

The premise is this: Marc has retired from the elite counter-terrorism unit due to personal tragedy. On his last mission, he shot and killed his lover, believing her to be an assassin sent to kill him. He sinks into guilt, believing that it was a case of mistaken identity. For two years he tries to get a grip on his anger and guilt by giving up the spy game and becoming a cattle rancher in Montana. One day Alex Stone, his former protégé, shows with evidence that Savin’s ex had been a rogue agent, and if he hadn’t killed her first she would have killed him. Stone also wants Marc’s help with an assignment: taking out a terrorist cell that has taken over a small Mediterranean island. Still heartbroken and angry, Marc says no, and Alex goes without him. By the time he finally looks at the evidence and is able to acknowledge the truth about his past, he gets word that Alex Stone is dead. Case closed, with yet one more thing to feel guilty about, until Victoria Jones shows up.

Tory Jones claims that she is Alex’s twin sister, and that her brother is still alive and being held captive by the terrorist group. At first Marc doesn’t buy her story, but after she provides him with the kind of information only Alex would have he starts to come around. He agrees to go after her brother, but takes her along as insurance in case she turns out to be part of an elaborate trap. Through rough seas, over rocky beaches, into caves, markets, dungeons, and palaces, and in spite of beatings, bullet wounds, and broken bones, Marc and Tory manage to not only rescue Alex, but fall passionately in love as well. Nothing like a little adrenaline to kick the chemistry into high gear….

Marc and Tory’s adventures in this book are over the top in the same way as Bond and Bourne – you just can’t believe what’s happening but you’re having too much fun to care! Both hero and heroine are appealing, which is more important than ever in this book because the secondary characters are few and far between. This is the biggest giveaway that this story was first published as a category romance. Fortunately, Adair fleshes out the characters and puts in plenty of action. She nearly always manages to show rather then tell, avoiding long winded explanations that would have dragged down the pace. In the few instances where explanation is necessary, such as when she is filling in a character’s back story, she works it in well enough so that it seems like a natural extension of the plot.

Overall, this book is fun and fast-paced with a nice amount of romance to balance the adventure. If you haven’t read any of the T-FLAC books, this is as good a place as any to start. Better yet, if you want to choose your Alpha-Male-Du-Jour from a menu, go to the author’s website and click on “Profiles.” You can view a complete dossier on each operative and get book synopses as well. Adair does a great job of continuing the high tech, guns and gadgets feel of her books right into every element of her website. Even if you’re already familiar with the books it’s fun to visit the site just to play with all the cool features!

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