HelenKay Dimon’s first in the Greenway Range series, Chain Of Command, was easy to pick up in the spirit of nostalgia. When Miss Bates started reading romance eight or so years ago, contemporary romance was rife with military heroes. Dimon was writing some delightful Hawaiian-set romance with protective cops and ex-military-type heroes: they were sexy and fun. Reading Chain Of Command about ex-Marine hero, Sawyer Cain, and heroine, Hailey Thorne, was all about getting those feelings back. But Miss Bates is not the reader she used to be when any romance, as long as it was romance, would do. Tastes change and trends that were attractive eight years ago are no longer. Reading Chain Of Command felt, well, tired. Sawyer Cain and his coterie of ex-military buddies, Jason, Marcus, and Marcus’s SEAL lover, Will (that WAS a nice touch) and sister, Molly, converge on an area north of San Diego to start a business. It is especially important to Sawyer, who carries guilt from their time in Afghanistan and is haunted by the soldiers lost there, to keep everyone together, provide them with viable work and create a safe haven. He wants to acquire the land his deceased buddy, Rob Turner, intended him to have and use it to establish a firing range business. The land, however, was left to Rob’s adopted daughter, heroine Hailey, and her coterie of friends are involved in it too: one of them is Rob’s fiancée, Kat, and their friend, Jessie, who lives with Hailey because of her abusive ex-husband, Pete.
Dimon establishes the land as the point of contention between Sawyer and Hailey. They meet in the local watering-hole and instant, sizzling attraction flares between them. They seem to have a quandary, or set one up: they can sleep together, but Hailey is leery of sleeping with Sawyer because he wants to buy her land? One of a number of problems Miss Bates had with the novel was this nebulous non-conflict. Maybe it was there to bind the narrative and keep it moving as Sawyer and Hailey share some incendiary love scenes? Unfortunately, in addition to the hazy conflict, Miss Bates found the love scenes crude; then, near-mystical in the extremes of physical pleasure the protagonists experience. (Really, at one point, Miss Bates thought the heroine was going blind; at another, the intensity of the occurrence had them in a near-catatonic state.) The characters, Hailey, Sawyer, and their buddies lacked development and transformation. Sawyer is sexy, hot, and protective: the trifecta of the ex, or military hero’s traits. Hailey is sexy, hot, smart, smart-mouthed, and independent. Sawyer is not pushy, or annoying, or oblivious to Hailey: he listens to her, which puts him on the bearable scale of alpha-ness.
Miss Bates understood she left these romances behind because of their stock characterization. Hero, in particular, and heroine maybe less so, are idealized figures. They are trotted into scenes and behave to type. On the one hand, it reads soothing: everything is predictable. On the other hand, it’s boring as heck and Miss Bates wanted to skim through the novel. Moreover, friendships are cast in one mold. Female friendship banter sounds a lot like Sex and the City; what a disservice that show did to the portrayal of female friendship! Male friendship takes on the quality of rough ribbing and elliptical, manly-man advice but we know, deep down, these guys would give their lives for the other. It’s a safe, protected, and thoroughly idealized world. Its notion of community is akin to the utopian small-town romance: the ex-military stick-together-because-of-what-binds-us and small-town idyll are a reflection of a North American world retreating into a fortress/castle mentality (as a matter of fact, Sawyer and his buddies are constantly concerned with the how, why, and who are breaching Hailey’s fence) … which is why we have to remember how feudal peasants fared. 😐
Lastly, Miss Bates does not judge Dimon’s romance as one that glorifies, or advocates gun culture, but the underlying message is definitely positive. Witness the following scene between Hailey and Sawyer:
“Are you antigun?” His expression stayed blank and unreadable.
“No.” She could offer up her experience and talk about all the hours she’d logged on the range. She decided to stop there instead and get them off any conversation where he kept his life attached to dangerous situations.
Miss Bates wishes Hailey’d answered, “Hell, yeah.” Then, things would’ve been interesting. Then, we’d have a debate; we would have a conflict … maybe we wouldn’t have a romance? But if we did, it would’ve been a heck of a lot more interesting than Chain Of Command was. Sadly. Because, as you can see, dear reader (and this novel might be your cup of tea, after all) the writing is clean and crisp.
As for Miss Bates and her creator, Miss Austen, HelenKay Dimon’s Chain Of Command “had a high claim to forbearance,” Emma.
HelenKay Dimon’s Chain Of Command is published by Carina Press. It was released on March 9th and has been available at your preferred vendors since. Miss Bates is grateful to Carina Press for an e-ARC, via Netgalley.