Sunday, March 27, 2016

Review: Take No Prisoners

Take No Prisoners

by Cindy Gerard
Book 2 of Black Ops, Inc. series

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

To use the same line that Abbie uses nearing the climax of this book: Sam Lang is a good man. And I’m pretty sure it was mainly because of Sam Lang (as well as having a repertoire of great side characters and character interactions) that had me loving this second installment of the Black Ops series.

If it’s one thing I know I’ll always get from a Cindy Gerard book, it’s the heart of charming and easily lovable characters. And I’m not too proud to admit that a good collection of characters is enough to satisfy me no matter what kind of book I’m reading. Sure, I’ll still see glaring flaws and obviously tacky dialogue and cheesy romantic content, but negatives are a lot easier for me to overlook when I find I love a set of characters created in a world that I’ve also come to love.

While Show No Mercy was an obvious bridge from one series to another, with a lot of monotonous story progression and very little significant story line, Take No Prisoners seems to solidify the Black Ops series as a whole new culture of men and women apart from Ms. Gerard’s first Romantic Suspense series--it cements Black Ops as a series unto its own merit with its own gaggle of lovely, awesome characters.

I know very little about military operations and even less about privately contracted firms working “under the radar” to do the government’s bidding in secret. The idea is intriguing if only because it feels extremely made-for-action-movie-and-espionage fodder. So I will comment little on the authenticity of these elements; I tend to spend more time following the characters and what logically makes sense to me, personally, about the story line. That doesn’t take away from the suspense and the excitement of the story itself. Coupled with a decent enough story line with a put-together plot surrounding a well-written romance, I’m all over it.

And plus:  It's exciting to me, and that's all that matters.

Abbie Hughes meets Sam Lang when he approaches her at her Blackjack table with a mission on his mind: Dig up information about how she and her brother are related to the drug, weapons, and gem smuggling terrorist leader Fredrick Nader. His goal is to “romance” her into talking about her life as a low-level correspondent for her brother in receiving illegally smuggled goods and making money off of them. It isn’t long before Sam realizes his mistake--that Abbie had no idea what her brother has been doing. But by then, he’s already found that he’s fallen for her and that seducing her for information she didn't have was not the best idea in the world.

At this point, Abbie is contacted by Fredrich Nader: He has her brother held captive because the young man stole a priceless diamond necklace from him and hid it. And he wants it back and Abbie is to retrieve it and bring it to Honduras or her brother will die.

Despite the betrayal of Sam’s ruse (he who had gotten close to her in order to learn about Nader’s whereabouts, lied to her about his identity, and then tried to freak her out by threatening to arrest her and her brother for being involved in illegal smuggling of goods, and pretty much accusing her of being a thief), Abbie realizes that he is the only way she’ll be able to find her brother and get him back alive.

In typical Cindy Gerard fashion, we find our heroes and one strong, stubborn heroine (amped up on fear, determination, and adrenaline), traveling to Nader’s playing grounds in Honduras on a rescue mission. In the meantime, Sam’s goal is to put Nader down once and for all as vengeance for his sister’s death. As backstory goes, Fredrich Nader was Sam Lang’s mission while he was with the BOIs, but when he started getting too close, Nader decided to send Sam a warning in the form of a car bomb to his sister and her husband. The message for Sam to back off or similar tragedy would hit the rest of his beloved family.

It certainly doesn’t get any better than personal attacks, car bombs, ruthless terrorists, and vengeance.

I both enjoyed and appreciated that there was a more solid plot in this second installment of the series than had shown in the first book. We had conflict, action, more conflict, some pretty damn good feels, forward progression, and a well-rounded conclusion to the overall story. Meanwhile, it was hard not to fall for Sam Lang and Abbie Hughes as a couple, and even harder not to love Sam Lang as a man (even if I’m not really gushing or squeeing).

Sam is a good man, that’s for certain. Despite the fact that he handled the situation in the beginning with Abbie poorly, I still see him as a good man. I wasn’t happy with his decisions and his deceit, but I liked seeing that he had his fair share of struggling through his own guilty conscience because of his careless actions that had lead to Abbie’s determined and stubborn refusal to fully trust him again until the very end.

Whether man or woman, it’s just not right to play around with human emotions of love like that. Deceit is very emotionally damaging. Thinking that he was romantically interested in her when he was really just after information and was willing to acquire said information at all costs? I’m sure that hurts a lot.

There was just so much FEELS going on with this angsty relationship and I liked it. Especially when the angsty stuff didn’t last long, and despite Abbie’s wounded heart, she was still willing to trust that Sam could keep her safe and pull her brother out of danger; even if she did doubt him and question him more times that I personally liked.

In contrast to Sam, Abbie didn’t really stand out as much, though I still admired her strength and the more down-to-earth feel from her individual life than I’ve seen from any of the other Cindy Gerard heroines. We’ve had a rambo chick with a tragic past tied into global conspiracies, a former Secret Service gal related to four other ex-military tough guys, a rock star who can kick her own bodyguard’s ass, an embassy worker who relishes doing overseas work, a spunky hotshot journalist who chases explosive stories...

Abbie Hughes was simply a young working woman trying to get by in life as a blackjack dealer, an accounting student, and trying to take care of her younger brother in the process. And when push came to shove, she was simply a desperate woman who wanted to do whatever it took to make sure her brother could come home, safe and alive.

It’s just unfortunate that as an individual, I felt like she fell kind of flat. Then again, it worked out quite well, as Sam Lang is a man of few words, and the quiet romance that blossomed between him and Abbie was actually quite lovely. And I liked it for that. In spite of the fact that their courtship was a ruse, it was still a nice development in their romance, in contrast to the usual instalust romances.

The quick introduction of the Crystal and Johnny Duane potential chemistry also gives rise to intrigue and I’m ready to dive into the next book now. Despite the fact that these two didn’t get as much book time together as Ms. Gerard typically gives a lot of her potential future main characters, I still found their interaction at the end of the book interesting. On top of already having a vested curiosity about Johnny Duane, I found that I DID immensely like Crystal Debrowski, what little appearance her spunky, fiery self showed throughout this book.

Final Thoughts:  Immensely enjoyable and hard to put down, and not just because the suspense was well paced with constant action. Great character interactions and story progression. And to be honest, I think Sam Lang was what did it for me in this book in spite of the douche-y way he acted towards Abbie in the beginning--I think his internal struggle, guilt, and fresh grief over his sister’s death helped a little bit.


This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in January 2015.

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