Book Review

Heart of Danger by Lisa Marie Rice - A Guest Review by Susan

B-

Title: Heart of Danger
Author: Lisa Marie Rice
Publication Info: HarperCollins 2012
ISBN: 978-0062121790
Genre: Paranormal

Heart of Danger - Lisa Marie Rice. A shirtless dude against an American flag with water dropping all over his face. Back in September, Susan contacted me about a Carla Kelly book she had reviewed. She emailed me again recently about her discovery that sometimes, paranormal elements in a contemporary romantic suspense novel can work. Here's her review of how and why that's true for her.


I discovered Lisa Marie Rice when I started to read hotter romances and she quickly became a favorite. I adore her earlier books, like the Midnight series, and her single titles. But her books have gotten a bit formulaic recently: super alpha ex-military heroes who have instalove for the less experienced and/or damaged heroines, heroes that protect the heroines at all costs, and hot sex with behavior and descriptions that are often repeated from book to book. However LMR remains my reading crack. The books are fast-paced and I look forward to the next one, always. I figured the first book in the new Ghost Ops series would be more of the same. When I realized that Heart of Danger was a move into paranormal, I hesitated.

I am not a paranormal fan—I have read a few here and there but for the most part it is not my cup of tea. I particularly dislike paranormal elements in contemporary stories. I stopped reading Shannon McKenna’s McCloud brothers and Maya Banks’ KGI series when they added paranormal heroines. Romantic suspense stories operate in a heightened version of our world, and adding the paranormal element just blows it out of the water for me. Even in contemporary romances, I just cannot buy into witches with powers and all that stuff—I have stayed away from Lisa Kleypas’s Friday Harbor series for that same reason.

So here’s the surprise: Heart of Danger worked for me. Not 100% but enough that I will at least read the next book. This is not my favorite LMR book, but the things I don’t like about it have nothing to do with the paranormal element. The book is set about 10 years in the future, in a world where the US has a female president and the iPhone 15 is on the market, among other things. Some things are the same but there is enough difference from now that makes the world of this book different. And so I was able buy into the paranormal in a way I wouldn’t in a contemporary romantic suspense. In addition, LMR has tweaked her formula a bit.

The romance is a beauty and the beast story. Tom McEnroe, called Mac, is very tough ex-Special Forces soldier. He is in hiding with two other teammates; they were framed as traitors after an op gone wrong that killed his commander and three other teammates. Mac is described as huge, strong, and ugly. He was never handsome and his line of work has made things worse, with a flattened nose, long knife scar on one side of his face, and a big burn scar on the other side.

Dr. Catherine Young is a physician who has turned to brain research. When she makes skin-to-skin contact with a person, she can “read” their emotions. Because of this ability, she leads a very isolated life. As is typical of stories about someone with this type of ability Catherine has had to learn that not everyone perceives what she does, and that she needs to keep quiet about the extra things she learns. Thus, she was a social outcast as grew up, and she remains a loner. Her special ability has affected her dating life most particularly, since she sees into the soul of anyone she touches and has been terrified by most of what she has learned. She touches a date and sees his inner anger, in one example. I have often found that the reasons for the lack of experience of LMR heroines (often near-virginal) somewhat implausible given modern behavior, but in this case it makes sense.

Catherine works in a pharmaceutical research lab, studying end-stage dementia patients. Most of her patients are too far gone for her to read their emotions when she touches them. But she is able to get a reading from one of her patients. He “tells” her to go find Mac, and off she goes, driving her electric car into the mountains on a cold snowy night. Her car shuts down in the snow—due to Mac’s security—and he brings her to his hideout and is instantly entranced (instalust), although suspicious about how she knew where to find him. Once Catherine convinces him that she is not a spy and knows something he needs to know, the instalove is ON.

The Villain is an executive/researcher with the parent pharmaceutical company. Like many other LMR books, he seeks geopolitical world domination, in this case by creating a drug that will turn regular soldiers into supersoldiers. Slight spoiler here: the patient that sent Catherine off to find Mac is his former commander, presumed dead. Mac and his team are off to rescue the commander, reluctantly bringing Catherine with them because she knows the facility. Some of the special ops future technology they use during the rescue is pretty cool. But eventually all hell breaks loose, and (spoiler) Catherine nearly dies (end spoiler). I am not sure that I buy into how that issue was resolved but this is LMR, so over-the-topness is to be expected.

The Villain is not caught, and the success of the mission actually piques his interest in Catherine—he realizes there is something special about her. Presumably this will be part of the focus in the next book, due out in July.

Mac is a typical LMR hero: super strong, super leader, and super in love. Like the typical LMR heroine Catherine has a professional career of substance. But in a break with past heroines, she is a direct actor in the rescue and in fact is a necessary component. The sex is typical LMR as well, for better or worse (since she tends to use the same descriptions). I wish she would show more about why her h/h are attracted to each other, especially emotionally. This is my overall quarrel with all her recent books, not just this one, though.

The world-building and futuristic elements were pretty well done. Most of the technology has a basis in existing technology, although there wasn’t a description of what the iPhone 15 does that is different from current models. Catherine’s car, the security used by the research lab, and the set-up and security of Mac’s community all include technology that exists, although there are also many things that are super advanced. But we don’t go 10 years into the future and end up with the Jetsons.

Some aspects of the world-building were very much over the top. I question is how Mac got his community up and running so fast? If I have my timeline correct, the op gone wrong takes place a year and a half before this story. During that time, Mac and his teammates Jon and Nick have created a very sophisticated and large multilevel hide-out and have been joined by a substantial number of people who want or need to drop off the grid. The growing community includes builders, nurses, a cook who is a former Hollywood star in hiding (and why isn’t Access Hollywood looking for this woman?), and other various workers. They even grow a lot of their own food—underground! I know the setting was described as isolated but in this era of Google Earth, the comings and goings, and the disappearance of people, would certainly be noticed.

This is not my favorite LMR but it worked well enough for me to keep reading. The futuristic setting helped make the paranormal element to work for me. Overall grade, B -.


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Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Cee Marsden says:

    Drat, now I’m having an urge to rewatch the old “Beauty and the Beast” tv series. But in the meantime I should pick up this book; it sounds like my kind of thing, even though I don’t usually do paranormals. Er, don’t usually read paranormal romance, I mean.

  2. 2
    Beccah W. says:

    The cover kinda looks like our model sneezed on the camera lens…

  3. 3
    Mirandaflynn says:

    At Beccah: I know! I keep looking at the picture and wondering if that’s suposed to be glitter? snow? sparkles (he’s a vampire)?

     

  4. 4
    Ellamr says:

    Love this review and I’ll give the book a try. I hope to like it, the Hero not being so pretty is a great sign already :)

  5. 5
    Ladyroy says:

    Ah, thanks for pointing out the cover-sneeze Beccah. I’m so exhausted today that I just spent a minute trying to wipe schmutz off my screen. Then I thought I was crazy.

  6. 6
    susan says:

    Actually I did the same thing with the print version. I thought “is it scratched?” A very odd cover choice by the publisher.

  7. 7
    tikaanidog says:

    “Get that man a sneeze guard!”

    I thoroughly enjoyed the book (as I enjoy most everything of LMR’s). looking forward to the next in the series.

  8. 8
    Beccah W. says:

    I agree. It’s always a good sign when the hero does not have the face of an angel (which always makes me roll my eyes so far back I get a cramp). And I thought of this last night while reading another book – why do lazy, drunken men living in Regency times have such chiselled bodies? It makes sense for an American bad-ass such as we have here…but seriously, I doubt lords and dukes were doing much lifting back in the day.

  9. 9
    Aziza says:

    No ordinary sternutation for a Super Alpha; verily, he must have a mighty sneeze!

    Even Peter Parker is alarmed by spectacular spittle-men.

  10. 10
    Jeodo says:

    good review – thanks!

  11. 11
    sabbyATL says:

    I just finished this and I found it okay. I won’t read the next one.  I guess I am tired of this type of romance:

    Instalust, which I, at age 38, find annoying.  I find 99% of men to be moderately attractive, given they’re not asshats.  But to be elevated to the level of true lust/crush a man must connect with me.  And that ain’t happening in 5 minutes.

    Gorgeous woman with magical junk who transforms the hero from intense, grim focused soldier into Goofy McBride.  Sure, silly pillow talk is fun.  But it usually doesn’t happen the first time a couple gets it on.  That’s for the couple who has been together a while.  The first time you’re together?  Worried about getting the other person off and being out of your mind with the fact you’re getting to be with that person. FINALLY.  Also, tired of the woman being so gorgeous.  Why can’t she be regular and the man be mad for her the way men get? 

    Excessive exposition on how hot they find each other, especially in situations normal humans would concentrating about saving their asses.  I’m sorry, a black ops guy in full gear drags me through the snow and I’m gonna vomit on him and try to kick him in the nuts.  I’m not gonna think one thing about how hot he might be until we’ve saved each other’s asses a couple times.  Come on.

    Shallow depictions of scientists as wimpy nerds (really?  come on, don’t we ALL know a scientist or professor who likes to cycle or mountain climb?  My own husband, a professor and scientist, is built like an NFL running back and his hobbies are weight lifting, Tough Mudders, and we go mountain biking as a family…I’m sick of the stereotype that just isn’t true).

    So, yeah, tired of that book.  Which is a lot of books.

    When I finally generate enough talent to write one (never) it’s going to have two people who come together due to circumstances beyond their control.  They will have initial awareness of each other the way two moderately attractive humans do, but nothing unusual and nothing overwrought.  They must become partners in order to deal with said circumstances and this brings them close.  Over a period of weeks, they will learn to rely and trust each other, and deep attraction will grow.  Conflict will arise from external sources, both due to the circumstances that brought them together and then, when that ends, their eventual separation.  Some other stuff will happen before they have a HEA.  See?  I won’t ever write this story. 

    But if I did it sure as hell wouldn’t have all that crap that annoys the fuck outta me.

    And if it’s already been written, please point it out to me so I can go read it.

    (I did read The Exceptions, and that was a close representation of what I am looking, only it’s a little too sparse on the romance and too thick on the mafia).

     

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