Guardian

Catherine Mann
September 2012, Romantic Suspense
Berkley, $7.99, 304 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425250997

Grade: C
Sensuality: Warm

Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. I don't know that I agree with that - authors can make even the oldest stories feel fresh just by adding a new perspective. Seeing the same road through different eyes can make it seem like a changed path. Unfortunately, this book is a standard read of a much told tale.

Major Sophie Campbell just wants justice for a her client - a young boy hurt when a testing mission resulted in massive damage to his home. She wants accountability: Someone needs to accept blame and show some remorse. As a JAG officer, it is not just her job but her duty to bring to justice those who have disgraced the uniform. To that end she is doing her best to see that the weapons officer on the plane is being tried for his "crimes". She is confident negligence of some kind was involved in the incident. If she can get the men to admit it in court, then the boy's family can sue the proper people and get him the help he needs.

Major David Berg is confident that whatever went wrong wasn't the result of anything his crew did. All of his men are experienced, cautious officers who take their duty to provide the troops with quality weaponry seriously. He is determined to make the lovely Sophie take a second look at the evidence. He approaches her with the possibility that they once more go over the raw data on the test flight and see what information it yields with two sets of eyes looking at it.

.

Sophie is at first reluctant to work with David. As a single mom, she doesn't have a lot of free time to spare on wild goose chases. She also doesn't want to give her libido any more access to the sizzling hot pilot. He turns her on by just looking at her in the court room. Sophie's former husband was a risk taker - in fact he died during some silly act of derring do. Sophie wants a more stable, dependable man this time around and isn't letting her hormones latch on to someone hot but reckless.

David, a single parent himself, is loath to get involved with Sophie and her son. His daughter is still dealing with the trauma of his divorce from a woman who put chasing money ahead of family. He is certain that Sophie, with her long hours and fancy career, is the kind to do the same. But he is determined his officer won't get sacrificed just so the case can be closed. He and Sophie agree to work together, aided by the fact that their families quickly and easily mesh. The growing attraction they feel has each of them wondering just how much togetherness they can stand before reaching situation critical.

But the real villain is still out there and he has a lot to loose if discovered. And if Sophie and David won't let things go and continue to play hardball, well, he is more than happy to step up to the plate.

I am a huge fan of the TV show JAG so seeing this book available for review had me pretty excited. The story sounded intriguing and I loved the idea of a military romance on the home front. The problem came in with the execution. Both David and Sophie are calm, reliable, diligent people. They are devoted parents. And frankly, they are boring as all get out. I never felt connected to either of them because I never felt like I really got to know them. We are told they love their jobs. Yet there is no sense of self beyond parenting and working. Most of us retain some form of hobby, even if it is just to be a reality TV junkie once the kids are down. The calm, cool collectedness was especially surprising in David, whom I would have expected to come with a bit of swagger and bravado. Instead he is as drab as the logical Sophie, who can deliberate over what to have for lunch for twenty minutes. Seriously? With kids I don't have that much time to decide what to wear, much less what to eat.

One thing I think contributed to the problem was the complete equality between the characters. Both had one child. Both had former spouses who left most of the parenting to them, even when said ex-spouse had still been around. Both had the same rank. Both had medals for valor. Each had a significant female family member caring for their child while they worked. They lived in the same neighborhood, even though neither of them really liked it because it was swanky. They both fell in lust at the same time. I think the author was so determined not to make her hero more than her heroine or vice versa that she wound up making them the same person.

They even had the same issue with each other. The information isn't revealed till after page 150 but Sophie's background played a lot into why she didn't trust David to always be there for her. David's background played into what he feared most about Sophie. And may I add they are both sort of silly? Sophie's was especially so given her career. They were also both quick to jump to judgement - Sophie assumed David was an adrenaline junkie because of his job. David assumed Sophie was money grubbing because of her home. These impressions stayed with them for quite awhile. When they finally opened their eyes and payed attention to what they saw rather than assumed, we were more than halfway through the book.

My complaints have probably seemed fairly petty. And they are. The simple fact is there isn't anything really wrong with this book. But there is nothing right with the book either. With All the military romance out there, I just don't think this is one you need to make time for. It's already fading from my memory and I literally just finished it.

-- Maggie Boyd

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