Rating: 3.75 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
CIA Agent Aaron “Angel” Collins is used to his husband, Jordan, having to get in harm’s way during his missions as an Army captain. It is just that usually Aaron gets to come along in his role as part of the CIA working on military affairs. But now there is someone new in charge who seems to be making rash decisions and Aaron is pulled off the upcoming hostage rescue mission to Afghanistan. No one knows why the change was made, or even who this mysterious senior officer is. It doesn’t make much sense as Aaron is clearly the most well trained, but there is nothing much to be done.
Jordan is equally frustrated with the way things are going with the leadership in his chain of command, and he decides after this current deployment he will resign his commission. But in the meantime, Jordan faces a three-month deployment alone while he attempts to negotiate for the hostages’ release.
When the building Jordan is working in is attacked and burned to the ground, Aaron is told that his husband is dead. But Aaron knows in his heart that Jordan is still alive. At the very least, he needs to see better proof that Jordan is gone than what the Army is offering, along with a better explanation of what really happened. Aaron is determined to find out more and is aided by Major General Troy Hart, who seems to want to get closer to Aaron than Aaron really wants, but also seems to be a good friend and someone who can help him dig into what is really going on. As Aaron begins investigating, he turns up some suspicious clues that suggest more is happening than is being reported. And Jordan, who is in fact still alive but imprisoned, starts to realize something more sinister is happening as well. Someone in the U.S. government is feeding false information about the fire and even threatening Jordan’s life. Now he must figure out how to get home to Aaron before it is all too late.
Angel’s Hero is the first of a two-part set that tells the story of Aaron and Jordan both in present day, as well as in flashbacks to their lives together over the past 11 years. There is a nice balance between present day and flashback, and we see some of the issues the guys face as they start dating during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and later are able to marry once it is repealed. The guys are a likable couple and we get a sense of Aaron’s stubbornness, perseverance, and commitment to his husband, as well as Jordan’s sense of honor and duty. The story started a little slow for me as we got all the set up to the politics behind why Aaron was being left behind, what the military command is doing, and why they were upset about it, etc. But as the book shifts to the suspense side with Jordan’s capture and Aaron looking for clues as to what really happened, the story picks up nicely. I wish the book hadn’t revealed the bad guy so quickly, given we have another book coming. It seems like that is mystery that would have been suited to the second half. But I still like the suspense angle and look forward to seeing how things develop in the second book.
As I said, this story is the first in a two-part set and ends with all the plot points unresolved and in a total cliffhanger. I will tell you, I really dislike this kind of set up. It is one thing to have a series with individual stories that conclude but with an overarching plot that carries over through the series. But to have essentially half a book which can in no way be read independently is very frustrating. Nothing in the blurb for this book makes it clear that it doesn’t resolve and is incomplete. Readers who pick it up expecting any kind of resolution will be very disappointed. This isn’t the first time I have seen this done, but to me, honestly this set up just feels like an attempt to get readers to buy two books instead of one. Especially because this story and the second book combined are only about 150 pages, well within normal novel length. Why not just make it one book with a Part 1 and Part 2? So clearly, you either need both this and Angel’s Truth (releasing March 14th) or neither, because this won’t stand alone at all.
So this story takes place in basically my backyard. The guys live in my county, in a city where I worked for years, where I dine out and shop and where many of my friends live. Aaron and Jordan work in places I drive by all the time and I am very familiar with the locations they visit (I could map out the exact route these guys would have taken to the hospital from their home, including which hospital a given jurisdiction would send an accident victim to, for example). So this is just a reviewing fluke obviously, since most readers won’t notice or care about the majority of things that I did, but I have to point out that there are some definite inaccuracies of location here. So things started off on the wrong foot for me when early on Aaron wakes to smell:
… the mixture of pine, leather, and cherry blossoms, and the freshness of his husband, Jordan. The cherry blossom scent drifted through the cracked window letting in the July air…
Ok, so I hate to be a huge pain here, but let me tell you, there are no cherry blossoms blooming here in July. I know this sounds like a nitpick, but seriously, the blooming of the cherry blossoms is a fricking HUGE event in the DC area. Parades, celebrations, hordes of tourists descending on the city en masse to see the trees. And the cherry blossom trees bloom only for this tiny little window in the spring. It would be incredibly easy to find out when in fact they do bloom considering people talk about it nonstop in the spring here and there is no reason for this kind of mistake. (Not to mention that if you have ever survived a swampy wet DC summer, the chances of anyone sleeping with a window open in July are basically nil.)
Another example is that these guys get a call from the Montgomery Village Police Department at one point, but no such things exists. Our police departments are done by county (except for a couple of rare exceptions). Again, this is an easy thing to figure out with a quick trip to Google.
And finally, I will say when someone lands an international cargo plane in the nonexistent airport in Bethesda, I was not pleased. Not only does a plane land, but it lands within a mile of Jordan and Aaron’s house. I almost laughed. This is a semi-urban community and there is no way there could be an international airport smack in the middle, especially one close enough to walk to their house. Again, a tiny bit of research into the city where the characters live would have easily solved this.
Now I can and did give the author some wiggle room on certain things. But again, I can’t be so flexible about an airport magically appearing in the middle of the city. Or maybe I am just way over invested because this is my home town. Like I said, 98% of you won’t care on whit about any of this so this is really an issue specific to me and other locals. So while I am pleased that Borino makes an effort to add some DC color, I am disappointed she doesn’t take the extra step to make sure she gets it right.
There are some other small elements that threw me off a bit. Names are either switched in a few places, or it is written in such a confusing way it felt like the names were off and I had to reread multiple times to figure it out. Some things felt somewhat unrealistic, especially with regard to Jordan’s escape. And seriously, no one kisses someone “deeply” thirty seconds after they vomit, no matter how much you love them.
So I know this sounds like a lot of criticism, but overall I did like this story. I am definitely invested enough to see what happens next and to learn the secrets of what is really going on. I wish the author hadn’t split the books up, but now that they are, I am definitely planning on continuing. And I think the suspense plot is nicely done and twisty enough to be interesting. I enjoyed Aaron and Jordan as a couple and I want to see what the future brings for them. I would have liked more time and attention to editing and research on the location. But overall I enjoyed this one and look forward to the second book.
Cover review: I like this one, something about it just grabs me. I wish they had found a better way of showing Aaron’s 7ft tall height other than just enlarging his image, but I think it is very attractive overall.