Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Guardian Ranger" by Cynthia Eden

Computer programmer Veronica Lane wants to find her missing brother, Cale. Since Sheriff Wyatt Halliday won't do anything about it, she turns to Jasper Adams, member of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit. Actually, no, he's part of the Elite Operations Divison (EOD), which is part of the FBI....but not really. It's better not to examine things too deeply here, folks. In any case, Veronica remembers Jasper from many years earlier, and is under the impression he is actually a mercenary, willing to take on risky jobs for money. She also remembers how swoon-worthy and masculine Jasper was.

Jasper is happy to go along with the ruse, as he is eager to capture Cale himself. Cale is the number one suspect in the murders of several EOD operatives, and Jasper is horrified that a former friend who once saved his life in battle could be responsible for all these murders-for-hire. He is also horrified at the fact he is deceiving Veronica about his identity. He remembers Veronica from many years earlier, but he was told to stay away from her by Cale, who believed Veronica deserved better than a mercenary who was always on a dangerous mission. He also remembers how smoking hot and vulnerable Veronica was.

After foiling an attempt at kidnapping Veronica, Jasper vows to keep her safe. Obviously, by asking too many questions about Cale and trying to prove his innocence, she has angered the real guilty party.

Guardian Ranger is part of the Mills & Boon Intrigue line of books, billed as "secrets and seduction to leave you craving more". To give this book credit, I enjoyed reading it. My plot description may lean on the mocking side, but this is a fast-paced, efficient romantic thriller that crams more plot into its 219 pages than most romantic thrillers manage when they are a full-length 400 pages. The smaller word count means that all the usual extraneous material is cut out and the book gets quickly down to business. Veronica and Jasper act on their naughty urges quite quickly, and when they encounter an obstacle to their relationship, they manage to sort things out like reasonable, intelligent adults.

Who would have thought???

There's the foiled kidnapping, but also an explosion, a car chase, and sex scenes. Much like a B-grade direct-to-DVD potboiler in written form. It may be formula-driven genre nonsense, but it does it extremely well. The plot is wrapped up satisfactorily, with minor strands left dangling for any future installments in the series (this one is part of some mini-series called "Shadow Agents"). Despite not revealing who ordered the hits on the dead EOD operatives, it wasn't necessary for this particular story, and God help me, but I just may get the next one to find out. Translation: I didn't feel cheated.

On the negative side of things - the cliches are often hard to stomach. Veronica is a stuttering, 28-year-old virgin who somehow manages to capture the lust of all the men around her. She's actually quite capable in a tense, life-threatening situation, so for the author to fall back on the virginal damsel-in-distress scenario is quite disappointing. Hey, Cynthia, this is 2013, not 1913! Veronica makes it quite clear she's not waiting for marriage - she's not a bad girl if she's hit the sack a few times.

Despite its obvious faults, Guardian Ranger was actually better than many novels with big international releases that I've read. Provided she can haul her heroines into the correct century, I reckon Cynthia Eden has the tools to easily outdo the likes of Lisa Jackson and compete with Karen Rose, should she choose to enter the field of romantic thriller novels.

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