I was going to bypass the supermarket used book bin, I swear, but I glanced at it, saw this cover, and was intrigued:
What was this? A non-Kimani category with a black hero? With dreadlocks? I read the blurb:
To the world, Jean-Charles Laroque was a tyrannical ruler—a powerful mercenary driven by greed. But was he threatening enough to assassinate? Making that assessment was profiler Emily Carlin, a woman whose professionalism masked her phobia of being dominated by an alpha male. A male like Laroque. Working undercover to infiltrate his psyche, Emily discovered a noble man—and an undeniable attraction. Amid the hot nights, Emily found herself falling for the magnetic Laroque. And if he discovered her true identity, she might lose not only her chance at love, but also her life. (Excerpt here.)
An African setting? I fished out fifty cents, threw it in my shopping cart, and am happy to report that Seducing the Mercenary is one of the most unusual and entertaining categories I’ve yet read. Published in 2007, it’s the fourth of five Shadow Soldiers books.
If you are feeling tl/dr today, here’s the skinny:
Strengths of this book:
- Unusual, terrifically rendered setting. Author avoids both “See! Africans are JUST LIKE US!”, and “See! Africans are different, exotic, and primal, but THEY ARE REALLY GREAT!”
- Alpha hero with a beta heart, totally believable as an African (black African “Ubasi” mother, Afrikaaner [white, of Dutch decent] father), raised in France
- Interesting, semi-complex, and logical international political plot
- Real suspense
- Totally hot. Instant, all consuming attraction between the leads. Also, tent sex.
- Typical over-reliance on family of origin issues to feed internal conflict
- Occasional problematic language for hero: “primal”, “predatory”, that kind of thing.
- Occasional breathy phrasing: one sentence paragraphs, one word sentences. Sentences broken up. Like this. So that there is more emphasis. But it is. Truly. Annoying.
- Length of book necessitates tidy resolution to complex problems
Cover note: I actually think this is a great cover, perfect for the characters and the setting. Interestingly, the model portraying the heroine appears Asian to me (this is clear when viewing the back cover, below. Click to enlarge.), yet the ethnicity of the heroine is never mentioned, nor are there cues in her physical description.
Emily and Jean-Charles take one look at each other and they are gone. Theirs is an unusual first meeting. He is in a Jeep and military vehicle convoy, the kind you see on the news with young men holding rifles in the air. And she is in the middle of an adoring crowd on a dusty hot street, having been separated from her research group (which was a cover anyway) at customs. He’s wearing the camos, the beret, and the dark sunglasses.
Emily ends up at his palace, and in order to stay there, she tells him she wants to write a book about him. Jean agrees to grant her an interview, in order to find out what she’s hiding and who she is working for. The physical danger is so high — the ruthless leader whom Jean ousted is plotting a violent return, possibly with the help of the US — that he has to take Emily with him wherever he goes. By spending all this time together, Emily comes discover that Jean is neither a greedy mercenary nor a tyrant. Unfortunately, her team will assassinate him in 7 days if she doesn’t report to them. Alas, Jean has confiscated her laptop and cell phone.
I enjoyed reading a category romance in which the alpha male’s suspicion of the heroine was justified. I loved the descriptions of Ubasi, from the Ubasi airport, to Jean-Charles’s palace, to a small village, to an outpost in the Purple Mountains. Maybe I was just in the right mood, but I loved the over the top romance against a backdrop of intrigue and war. I’m glad I read this unusual and compelling romance.
Word on the Web:
Enduring Romance, Robyn, very positive