New Release Reviews: First Strike & Striking Distance by Pamela Clare

first strike5 Striking DistanceFirst Strike & Striking Distance by Pamela Clare
Series: I-Team #5.9 & 6
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Dates: Oct 22 & Nov 5, 2013

FIRST STRIKE: Javier “Cobra” Corbray is on his way home from a rough deployment in Afghanistan when he finds himself having dinner with “the Baghdad Babe.” What she wants from him—sex with no strings—could land them both in prison. Still, he’s more than happy to oblige her. She’s confident and sexually assertive, and he’s secure enough to lie back and let her make the first strike. But, as she’s about to find out, he’s more than her match.

STRIKING DISTANCE: TV reporter Laura Nilsson, known as the “Baghdad Babe,” spent eighteen months in an Al Qaeda compound after being kidnapped live on the air. Two years later, she’s still wondering why.

No rescue mission in Javier Corbray’s fourteen years as a Navy SEAL affected him the way Laura’s rescue did. No woman has stirred his protective instincts the way she has. And he wants her more than he’s ever wanted anyone.

As Laura and Javier’s passion ignites, so does Laura’s need to discover the mystery of her past. Especially when she learns that her abduction was not random—and that she’s still a target for a killer with an impenetrable motive. Now Javier will have to rely on his skills to keep the woman he loves from being struck down before she dares uncover the truth.

D.G.’s Combined Rating: 3.5 skulls = B

The I-Team series is the ONLY romantic suspense series I read. This may seem surprising to those who know me; after all, I love both romance and mysteries so how couldn’t I love a genre that meshes both? In theory I should, but I find that most romantic suspense does a terrible job with the mystery part. Either they are all about serial killers (which I think is a cop-out) or with phantom killers that never leave clues and do impossible things that would need them to teleport, be invisible and not sleep, all while acting like nothing’s wrong (because you know it’s always “one of them”.) The I-Team series, however, has real life issues, great investigations and the villains’ motives are the usual: power, money, revenge.

First Strike is the prequel novella that sets up the events in Striking Distance. It’s all about the relationship between Javier and Laura, giving us a glimpse of who they were before. It’s really steamy and can be skipped if needed but I think it provides a good balance for the emotionally heavy full novel.

Striking Distance is a solid romance suspense novel but too crowded for my taste. Laura was dealing with 3 different issues, anyone of each could have made her own book together with the romance and Javier’s problems. There’s her recovery from her kidnapping and her learning to live and trust again, the threat from the villain plus a third issue I’ll call the K-plot (I don’t want to give spoilers.) I object the most to the K-plot because it bogged down the story and it wasn’t developed fully. Given the magnitude of this side plot – probably involving hundreds of laws, different countries and cultures plus the emotional component which was HUGE – it was resolved very conviniently.  Worse, Laura’s final decision about this matter was portrayed as selfless but I’m not convinced this was the case. This was something she never wanted, which was forced upon her. As a person who has made the same decision about her life, I would have very dark thoughts if something like this where to happen to me and given Laura’s kidnapping and abuse, she had way more baggage than I ever would. How can I believe that her feelings were all rainbows and roses? Please note that this side plot doesn’t offend me – one of my favorite books deals with something similar – but I just don’t like how it was handled here.

Most of the action in this book deals with the current threat against Laura’s life. I have to say that this was my most dissapointing I-Team villain. He could have simply killed her at the beginning, when the FBI didn’t believe the threat against her. But instead of going the simple route, he created elaborate plans with a good likelihoood of failure (which of course failed), warned law enforcement that something was up and made life more difficult for himself. You would think that a person this dumb wouldn’t succeed at anything but surprisingly, he was brilliant at covering his tracks.  That didn’t ring true for me. A person who could plan like this sounded very efficient, so his mistakes didn’t make much sense to me.

There were two things I enjoyed about this book: Javier and the portrayal of Puerto Rican, Swedish and Middle Eastern culture. Javier was supper hot, caring and with such a swagger! The differences in how Swedish and Puerto Rican culture see sex were both enlightening and funny. And I liked how Laura had a clear understanding that not all Middle Eastern people were evil, even after her ordeal. I also have to thank Ms. Clare for taking the time to get the Puerto Rican expressions right – in Latin America we may all speak Spanish, but we speak it differently. And yes, the coquí is real. 🙂

I’m not sure how long Ms. Clare plans to continue with the I-Team series but I think it’s getting close to the end. Although I love how past heroes are included in new books, there’s just too much detail about past couples. I think Ms. Clare should definitely consider writing a spin-off, where some of the men make an appearance now and then. Maybe a good place to start would be the Cobra agency…all those SEALs sound too yummy for words!

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