Every night before bed this week I’ve read a few pages of Lora Leigh’s Maverick. I picked it up partly because I know for many readers, her books are Teh Cracke, and because she’s a huge seller in contemporary erotic romance. Plus there’s SEALs and muscular badasses with semi-automatic weaponry in their trousers, plus an actual firearm if they’re carrying, and I’m a total fangirl of law enforcement characters of both genders.
The problem with Maverick is that I read a few pages and bust out laughing – not “Ha ha! That was hilarious dialogue!” laughter but “Wait, are you kidding me?” laughter. I’ve already got more dogeared pages than I know what to do with.
The best section by far is this one:
“She’s wounded, man. You can’t show her the killer face and expect her to trust you.”
Micah turned to look at him now. “The killer face?” he asked evenly.
“Yeah, that icy Mossad façade you’re wearing right now,” he growled.
Seriously. “Mossad façade?!”
And it’s not even a joke! I mean, not that I can tell anyway because the wearer of this alleged Mossad Façade doesn’t see the humor in it. And the speaker wasn’t kidding, either. He was growling. And really, can you growl about a façade?
After I stopped giggling, I had to admit, there’s a real potential for a series here. Not the covert operative collective that’s been done over and over since the turgid peaking of the erotic romance cum romantic suspense genre, but a series built on potential variations of “Mossad Façade.” Leigh is sitting on a gold mine here.
Navy SEAL appeal. Muscles, sleek wet hair, and fighting of pirates with his mighty mizzen mast.
Marine sheen. Is it Vitalis, or is it vitality? Only Intrepidde Heroinne knows for sure!
Coast Guard petard (as in hoisted by) You always want a man who knows his way around an inlet.
Army Charm! An army of one – to get in her pants!
Air Force horse! – Duh. Hung like one.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police? Oh, come on. Fish in a barrel for law enforcement based erotic romance.
It’s like “Dancing with the Stars” only instead of stars we have hypertrophied men in serious-faced dance routines. I’ll keep trying to read past this page but when the comedic hijinks of my imagination start with the Rockette-style choreography of the Mossad Façade in a dance-off with the smooth rhythm of the Marine Sheen, it’s hard to get back into a story where already I suspect the heroes take themselves too seriously.
Sadly, it doesn’t get much better for me.
Risa Clay, the heroine, is a character, I believe, from an earlier novel who survived hell: she was kidnapped and drugged with some sort of psychosis-inducing sexual stimulation drug, then raped. She was 13 at the time. Her father organized the whole thing. Now it’s several years later, and she’s all grown up, and trying bit by bit to undo the damage.
Maverick, or Micah, has been ordered to tail her, and, irritating as it is for Micah and his façade, her tail is turning his tail on in a big, big way. Faster than you can say “Oy gevalt,” Micah has a boner of a conflict. Risa has been targeted by a mysterious assassin who goes by the name “Orion,” and Micah has a personal interest in both protecting Risa and killing Orion: Orion killed Micah’s mother.
Most of these plot elements I would expect to combine and hold my interest, but the execution (no pun intended) leaves me distinctly not curious. There’s a lot of long paragraphs of rumination, and repeated details of backstory in the internal monologue of the characters, plus a lot of redundant phrasing. All the victims were “pumped full” of the drug that was given to Risa, and the same few words are used over and over to describe the drug itself. It was like reading the same intermediary paragraphs between small sections of dialogue.
Then it just got looney tunes all up in there. Risa has decided she is going to get her groove on and “take a lover” – her first, since prior to being raped, she’d never had sex. So the Elite Ops tail her to a club, and – surprise?! – everyone from the Elite Ops team is here. It’s like those reunions of all the historical romance family members in collective wedded bliss only instead there’s a crew of badass operatives and their wives/girlfriends/fiancees, all hanging around this club to meet up with Risa, dance with her, protect her from assassin dude, and I presume help her on her way to nookie-lation.
At one point, a character speaks into a microphone attached to his wrist. Sure, that’s not obvious, some dude chatting into his shirt cuff. Then, Micah and Risa make steamy, electric eye contact:
He stroked the delicate line of her jaw with his gaze, then came back to her eyes. He let her inside him, let her see into the soul and the parts of him that were just a man, just a lover willing to touch her in gentleness. He let her see there was nothing to fear if she let him close to her.
Eyes were more than the windows to the soul. They could lie as well. And Micah was a consummate liar. But as he stared into her wary gaze, he found himself wishing he could be more.
Dude. Does his semi-automatic weapon convert into an acoustic guitar so he can start playing love ballads about rainbows and trout fishing? Because Holy Emo Are You Kidding Me?
Then I began to doubt the brain power of the entire Ops team. The dancing team from Elite Ops figure out that Risa was followed, and they presume by Orion or someone he hired. Micah does not take the news well:
He did breathe in heavily. “Have a crew go into her apartment before she returns home, check for bugs. Orion will lay in listening devices sometimes, to track his mark. Several were found in his last victim’s hotel room. That’s how he knows where to strike and when. Make certain her apartment is clean.”
“That could give us away,” Clint pointed out. “He’ll know we’re on to him and he could run.”
Micah shook his head. “He’s been tracked before and escaped. He’s a master at his craft and the execution of it. He’ll know I’m her protection, there’s no hiding that. Orion will see it as a challenge, but he won’t back off. Nothing will stop him from attempting to kill her.”
He and his father had found the devices in Micah’s parents’ home when his mother had turned up missing. How long they had been there, Micah wasn’t certain. Definitely long enough for Orion to have tracked her schedule and to know where and when to take her.
Hold the phone here. Micah knows of at least two other instances where Orion had targeted someone, including his own mother, wherein Orion had placed bugs in the target’s home to verify schedule and times of vulnerability… and it’s just now occurring to him that maybe Risa’s home should be scanned?
Dude. I know there are few people in the Mossad that are that freaking dense, if any. I mean, come on now. If she’s targeted for assassination, how on earth are the whole muscular posse of them at a club, and not combing her home for bugs, setting up a safe location for her, and generally, you know, doing something other than gazing through a façade with eyes that are the window to lies?
Once I realized that I couldn’t trust this bozo to do much of anything besides gaze and smolder and clench his jaw, I didn’t want to read any more. Time to find another book to put on the bedstand.
Next time I meet an actual Mossad agent, I’m going to compliment him or her on having such an excellent façade.
“Mossad Façade.” You gotta be fucking kidding me.