I read my first Monette Michaels book, Eye of the Storm, about a year ago and didn’t review it for the RT site because I wasn’t sure what kind of rating I would give it. First in the Security Specialists International series, the story was jam packed with action, adventure and sex, which is right up my alley, however, the story’s plot and characterization was so far fetched that at several points throughout the story, I looked up from my reading to mutter, “What the what?”
Eye of the Storm starts out with the kick ass heroine, Keely Walsh, single handedly taking on South American terrorists in order to get to her brother and his team of SSI agents who are in the jungle on an intelligence mission. Betrayed by someone higher up in the Department of Defense, the former military men are sitting ducks for some very bad guys coming after them. Guns blazing (and I mean guns, plural — no wimpy lady here, folks) Keely battles her way to a remote outpost where she out thinks and out shoots everyone in order to save the day.
Ren Maddox cannot believe someone has taken over his op. Especially since that someone happens to be a beautiful woman who barely stands five foot two. Ren immediately thinks that she is too good to be true and to his credit, he is right — she is way too good to be true.
After getting out of the jungle and getting to know her a bit more, the reader learns that Keely is twenty-two years old and holds three doctorates and has trained as both a Navy SEAL and a sniper. On top of this she is so beautiful that she can stop men in their tracks and she is an untouched virgin.
Okay, so realism might not be the name of the game, however, up until this point, who was I to complain. I had some great action scenes with a woman who could take care of herself, a male that was more Alpha than most (yum) and chemistry between the two that was about to melt my e-reader.
But then things started to go south.
Not the characters, they go north, traveling from Argentina to a small town in Idaho in the Rocky Mountains to the SSI headquarters. And it is here that the contradictions in the characters’ personalities start to pile up.
For example, Keely is a virgin, yet she immediately turns on the dirty talk and puts in her nipple rings in order to get some action from Ren. (Nipple rings – where did those come from?) The hero, who was very hot to trot to get Keely into bed before, suddenly is deathly afraid that his “size” will violate her and so he has to keep hands off. This makes Keely go looking for a way to measure if he would be physically suitable for her which means she heads to the kitchen for a vegetable she can use as a comparison...
Yeah, this is a weird turn. And it just gets weirder when Keely decides to start discussing how her brothers and father are essentially Ren’s anatomical size and so she isn't worried ... say what?!?
Eventually Ren gets over his fear that he will hurt the tiny lady they proceed to have wild, unrestrained sex, hence the erotica tag for the book. Personally, I would have liked the story much better if the author would have just stuck to writing a romantic suspense rather than inserting some random, wild bedroom escapades.
Just to be sure I was remembering everything clearly before I sat down to write this post, I did return to Eye of the Storm for a re-read. Going back, I found myself even more frustrated by several of the plot points — including the fact that the heroine can, and does, find trouble wherever she goes. No matter what country or the situation, trained soldiers, guns and more often than not, helicopters, are needed to save her.
Not wanting to judge the Security Specialists International series solely on Eye of the Storm, especially when I was so conflicted, I waited for the second book, Cold Day in Hell, to be released. I just got my hands on this e-book and I admit to staying up way too late to finish this new story. Cold Day features a stunningly beautiful woman who is completely out of this world perfect, a supermodel no less, who needs rescuing because much like her best friend, Keely, Callie could find trouble sitting in a paper bag.
When Cold Day starts, Callie is in Colombia on a photo shoot where a dangerous drug trafficker is stalking her. She needs a way out and so she calls Keely and the SSI for help. Operative and former Marine Risto Smith is immediately dispatched to extricate Callie from the situation. Risto is everything you could want in a hero. Huge, tough as nails and protective with a capital P.
It was hard not to compare this book to the first. Like the previous book, Cold Day takes readers to a South American country where the characters are facing some very unsavory enemies. However, unlike the first novel, I felt that the erotic elements in this tale were much more tightly integrated into the story as a whole. Callie may be inexperienced (she has only had one other lover despite the fact that she is in her late twenties and is a much sought after model), but she knows what she wants. Risto wakes up all her womanly desires and she is not afraid to tell him so.
Risto is no fool, so when Callie lets him know how much she wants him, he takes her up on the offer of sex. But he is also very upfront about how this is only temporary for him. Callie takes this as a challenge and uses her every wile to make him want her for the long haul.
Running from the bad guys, the two don’t get a lot of alone time, but when they are together they make the most of every available second. The lovemaking is hot and frequent and somewhat adventurous (she seems open to the idea of a bit of domination).
I ended up giving Cold Day in Hell a rating of four stars. I praised the fact that this one gets the erotic moments right while also making readers like the characters, despite, not because of, their perfection. I think that readers who are interested in spending more time in Michael’s SSI world may enjoy reading Keely’s story. However, I would be hesitant to recommend it to anyone without the caveat that while neither of these stories is realistic, Eye of the Storm will most likely push the boundaries of believability in a way that the series second doesn’t. Cold Day in Hell is a true treat that both erotic romance and romantic suspense fans will enjoy!
- Dawn Crowne