Cindy Gerard’s Taking Fire is fourth in the One-Eyed Jacks series, which sprung from her seven-volume Black Ops. Miss Bates admits to reading most of them (with the exception of the peculiar, unreadable Long Way Home). Though the elements of Gerard’s books should feel overdone, and while they’re not “fresh,” their familiarity and the genuineness she brings to them satisfy every time. Thinking about what Gerard did in Taking Fire, Miss Bates ventures to say it’s because Gerard mitigates her heroes’ alpha-ness with portraits of men who know what they’re feeling and feel it deeply. She endows her ultra-feminine heroines with steel and smarts. She skirts demonizing the Middle and Near East with a deep sympathy and positive portrayal of, in this case, Afghanistan’s people. She manages to turn Miss Bates’s reader’s distaste to page-turning sympathy. Taking Fire is of this ilk.
Miss Bates has written elsewhere of the theme of betrayal in romance. Gerard’s Taking Fire works with the same, except in Gerard’s case, heroine betrays hero. Taking Fire is tripartite: hero Bobby Traggert and heroine Talia Levine’s initial affair in Kabul; their reunification in Oman six years later; and, Oman events’ aftermath in Washington D. C.
Miss Bates started to read romance after a 30-year hiatus … oh, the waste, the waste! Linda Howard’s Mackenzie’s Mountain and Dream Man were two of the first romances she read. She loved every alpha-moment of them: loved her heroes’ “guyness” (Howard’s word, not Miss B’s) and her only-seemingly-fragile heroines’ steeliness. What joy and excitement coursed through Miss Bates when she saw that Howard had a new romantic suspense novel coming out, one in a vein she hadn’t written in in years. There was bated breath and sparkles in Miss Bates’s eyes as she flipped open the Kindle to dig into Troublemaker. Yup, she sighed at the opening, classic Howard.
Morgan Yancy is leader of a GO-Team, a paramilitary government group who fixes bad things, goes to bad places and takes out bad guys. Morgan loves his job and, in typical Howard-esque maleness, he’s all about the hyper-masculine: “There was nothing like blowing shit up or getting shot at to give a man a jolt of adrenaline.” We meet Morgan in Washington D.C., home from yet another secret mission, taking some R&R on his fishing boat. But he’s barely gotten his first zzz’s at home when he’s shot and nearly dies: chest wound, cardiac arrest, the works. Axel MacNamara, the Go-Teams’ head, suspects internal leaks and security breaches. As soon as Morgan can be moved, Axel sends him to his ex-stepsister, Isabeau “Bo” Maran, in Hamrickville, West Virginia, to recuperate and hide until they figure out what’s going on, who and why someone wants Morgan dead.