What I have been dreading most about this review is posting a picture of the cover of this book. It's just plain embarrassing. Really, publishers? Can't you go for a slightly more subtle picture? I would like to think that I am independent enough to not care what other people think, but there was no way in hell I was going outside with this book. Embarrassment aside, I have read all of Marliss Melton's books and found her entertaining enough to pick up her latest book, Show No Fear (2009). I enjoy some escapist romance now and then and Marliss Melton is/was one of my go-to authors that I've always enjoyed.
I know what I'm getting when I pick these books up. If I'm not in the right mood, I can find them rather annoying and tedious, but if there's an interesting plot and good chemistry, I suck them up awfully quickly. But I've wondered recently if I've been growing out of them. I've read so much good literature lately that these fluffy books can pale in comparison. This is not my goal; I quite enjoy my cheap, thrilling romantic adventure books, and I'd miss it if I could only enjoy literature depicting realistic, sometimes monotonous, sometimes heart-wrenching relationships. Needless to say, there is less awesome sex and fewer happy endings in realistic drama.
Unfortunately, Show No Fear and Marliss Melton were a disappointment, and I don't think this is because I suddenly turned into a literature snob. My hypothesis is that Melton, bored of writing about Navy Seals and out of ideas, slacked off on her latest and wrote a much less interesting book. Another option is that she paid someone else to write it for her. If her name wasn't printed all over the cover, I would have assumed it was a different, less talented author. Melton usually includes a subplot with another love interest, which was missing here, and the writing was sometimes distractingly bad.
Lucy Donovan and Gus Atwater are part of the CIA and Navy Seals respectively and going undercover to Colombia as part of a small U.N. group to negotiate for two American hostages in the jungle. Lucy is used to taking chances and working alone. Although she is getting over some PTSD from her last assignment, she kind of resents Gus's presence--when she doesn't lean on him for support. Really, her character didn't make much sense. Gus, who just happens to be Lucy's college sweetheart (Lucy broke up with him after a traumatic suicide bombing in Spain?) still loves Lucy and is only concerned with keeping her safe.
Lucy and Gus are posing as native Spanish speakers in the U.N. team because Americans can't be involved. This is possible because Lucy studied abroad in Spain and Gus took an intensive language course. As someone who lived in Germany during college and is learning Spanish right now, I think it's fair to say they would not pass as native Spanish speakers. Proficient is one thing, fluent is another, and passing as native is quite another. Then Lucy and Gus prove themselves to be the worst CIA agents in the history of the world, discussing their mission on the public airplane and breaking into English intermittently throughout their stay in the jungle. The group finds itself stuck in some far-away camp with the guerrillas, where they wait around for something to happen. The mission to free the hostages would have gone much more smoothly if Lucy and Gus had just not been there. Of course, Lucy and Gus fall (back) in love and get it on while they're out in the jungle, but I'm looking for a fantasy love story. Hooking up with your ex-boyfriend from college with no privacy after you haven't showered for awhile and you have an irritating, infected cut on your hip is not appealing in any way.
And the last thing that bothered me is that Gus is a cold-blooded killer. Gus has to find and save Lucy in the end because--of course. His superiors want the Seals to pull out because they're not even supposed to be gallivanting about in Colombia, but Gus won't leave Lucy in the jungle. In order to find her location, the Seals intercept some of the runners (the soldiers who bring messages from camp to camp) and interrogate them. And then they kill them because they don't want anyone to find out the Americans are hanging out in the Colombian jungle. Melton had even already made the point that many of the young soldiers are forced into conscription, but then she doesn't have any problem having her hero murder these young men in cold blood? Eerily similar in a bad way to the many "disappeared" from Pinochet's regime. Maybe the sequel can be Gus Atwater's trial for murder.