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Friday, September 20, 2013

ARC Review: Hot Pursuit by Lynn Raye Harris

It should surprise no one that I’m a complete military romantic suspense ’ho and am always looking for new authors to add to my list. All it really took for me to become interested in unknown-to-me Lynn Raye Harris’s indie HOT PURSUIT—which kicks off her Hostile Operations Team (HOT; clever, that) series—was one look at that cover and the words ‘special operations’. I’m a sucker for the reunion romance trope, so former high school sweethearts + hot spec ops bloke + bad guys chasing ‘his woman’ = winning setup. I found HOT PURSUIT a well-written, solid military romantic suspense title with an interesting, well-paced plot and deliciously steamy love scenes. But while the elements were well executed, there wasn’t enough to really set it apart from the myriad other titles in the genre for me.

Hero Matt Girard is a spec ops captain in the Army, tasked with leading a small team of operatives as part of an elite counterterrorism unit, HOT. When a top secret mission to capture a terrorist in Iraq goes awry due to bad intel and two HOT team members are killed, Matt is relieved of his duties pending a hearing. With his military career hanging in the balance and the guilt and grief over his teammates’ deaths weighing heavily on him, Matt returns to the bayou hometown of Rochambeau, Louisiana he escaped from at seventeen to await his fate and attend his sister’s wedding. There he comes face to face with his biggest regret: former childhood best friend and one-time lover Evangeline (Evie) Baker, whom he made the mistake of deflowering… and then telling everyone at school about it before skipping town. Definitely not the way to a woman’s heart, and while he’s truly sorry for being an absolute wanker back then and seeks Evie out to apologise (after 10 years, mind you), he also really just wants back in her pants. Spec ops hotness and all, it took me quite a while to warm up to Matt, and it really only happened after witnessing the pockets of vulnerability (especially about his mum and his relationship with his father) under the military badass fa├žade and his commitment to helping Evie out of a potentially deadly jam even at the risk of his military career. I liked how he was honest with Evie about what he could and couldn’t offer her until he knew where he stood professionally and how in the end he was willing to do anything to be with her, but I was (repeatedly) tempted to slap him upside the head for not letting Evie decide for herself whether she could deal with the uncertainty and danger of his spec ops career.

Evie has the right combination of vulnerability and strength to make her both thoroughly relatable and likeable. She’s had a fairly rough go of it her whole life: raised by a single mother on the poor side of town, having to deal with the cruelty of high schoolers deeming her easy or a slut in the aftermath of Matt’s asshattery, and having her business partner and sometimes-lover with organised crime connections steal her restaurant from under her. Like Matt, she’s at a crossroads and finds herself back in the hometown she never wanted to return to—and to top it off, she has to face the man who loved her, blabbed, and left her to deal with the consequences and small-town gossip again whilst her life is at its lowest. While I thought she hung on a bit too much to that hurt, humiliation, and resentment from a decade ago, I really liked how she always got back into it after a hard knock. Even when the bad guys show up looking something and kidnap her sullen younger sister and she’s thrust into a world of murder, mayhem, and gunfire that is completely foreign to her. The way Ms. Harris balanced Evie’s determination to follow Matt and rescue her sister with her completely losing it made Evie’s character three-dimensional and realistic. Her chemistry with Matt is off the charts and she’s never really fallen out of love with him, but I wish she’d made him grovel a bit more before falling right back into his arms in a relationship they both feel has no way of working.

The story is a bit slow to get going, with the first quarter of the book laying out the history between Matt and Evie and painting a rich picture of life in the small bayou town of Rochambeau. But once it takes off, it’s a nonstop thrill ride with several twists you definitely will not see coming. Whilst not particularly original overall, the suspense is well written and executed, and Ms. Harris clearly has a great voice for the genre. I loved the rest of the HOT guys that help Matt and Evie and definitely look forward to their stories. But the romance was the weakest part of the story for me: sexual tension abounded and the love scenes were plenty hot, but the emotional connection with the hero and heroine wasn’t fully there for me.

Overall, HOT PURSUIT was an action-packed, enjoyable read with great (if not particularly novel) suspense and plenty of steam. And, wow, that cover! The HOT series has plenty of potential, and I look forward to seeing how Ms. Harris’s military romantic suspense voice develops as the series proceeds.

**ARC provided by NetGalley**

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  1. My TBR pile just groaned.. with Delight.. Another great hot, military romantic suspense... This will be a new author for me too..