Rating: 3.5 stars
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Aaron “Angel” Collins is stunned when his husband Jordan stumbles half dead into their house one night. Aaron had fought the news of Jordan’s death in Afghanistan, not believing the military’s vague reports of the incident that supposedly killed him. But when Major General Troy Hart showed him photographic evidence, Aaron had to finally let himself accept that Jordan was dead. Seeing him alive thrills Aaron, though Jordan is very sick and badly injured from his time in the Afghan prison.
When Jordan fills Aaron in on the fact that Hart was behind Jordan’s capture and that he is the one who ordered Jordan’s death, Aaron is shocked. The man had been sort of pushy with his interest in Aaron, but he also seemed to genuinely want to help with Aaron’s investigation. Aaron is furious to learn that the man has been playing him and that he is responsible for Jordan’s imprisonment and near death.
Jordan needs time to heal physically and emotionally from the trauma, but the men are determined to find the evidence they need to prove Hart’s guilt. They don’t want to disclose what they know about Hart specifically for fear that no one will believe them. They are hoping the Army will figure it out from the information they have been given, but so far their investigation is going nowhere. Even worse, the Army is not happy that Jordan accepted help from Adeela, the nurse in the prison who helped him escape, as accepting favors from the enemy is against the rules. So it is even more essential that they prove what was really going on and that Jordan’s death was imminent or he might face court marshal and jail. The men must race against time to figure out what is really going on, but the more they dig, the bigger the threats become.
Angel’s Truth is the second book in a two-part set that began with Angel’s Hero. It picks up at the cliffhanger where we left the first book and completes the story. After the shock of finding Jordan is alive, the guys still face a lot of hurdles here, the first being that Jordan is gravely ill and injured. Between being on crutches and the nightmares and emotional trauma of his ordeal, he is very dependent on Aaron and it is hard to be away from him. I think the book really captures Aaron’s shock of seeing Jordan alive nicely. He has been through such a roller coaster of denial, grief, and eventual acceptance that he is barely able to comprehend these new developments. So I think Borino gets this part really right as Aaron has to totally adapt to this shocking new reality of both Jordan being alive, and the man he thought was his friend being the one responsible for all the horrors.
I did find it sort of strange though that everyone kept thinking that Aaron had already moved on so easily with Hart. Even Jordan keeps saying he would understand if something had happened and even that he would understand if taking care of him were too much trouble. This seemed odd to me because Jordan was gone about a month (maybe two, it wasn’t totally clear to me). For 95% of that time, Aaron was sure Jordan was still alive and determined to find him. The idea that somewhere in there he had decided to fall in love with Hart, or that after all that he would tire of Jordan when he returned home seemed silly, but this was a theme oddly repeated throughout the book.
Most of the story focuses on Jordan and Aaron trying to prove Hart’s culpability in Jordan’s capture, as well as that he is the one who ordered Jordan’s death. No one in the military can figure out that Hart was the source of the calls (as I said, the guys don’t tell them until the very end), nor do they really even believe that someone in the government is responsible. They are sure that the guards Jordan “overheard” were lying. So the guys are pretty much on their own to root out the evidence. Some of this suspense element I enjoyed. There is a definite “us against the world” vibe and I liked seeing the men band together to prove Hart’s guilt and absolve Jordan of responsibility.
I did find much of this implausible, however. First off, both the government and the military are portrayed as spectacularly bumbling and ineffective in both of these books. They don’t believe any evidence presented, they can’t investigate anything properly, they drop the ball on every possible occasion, no one can think for themselves, and virtually every decision they make is inept or idiotic. I mean, yes, I don’t think everything the government does is perfect, but they were so dysfunctional at every turn as to be almost absurd. Add to that the incredible ease that Jordan and Aaron themselves had in figuring everything out and it seemed even more hard to believe that the government was so incapable. I also had a hard time completely understanding the resolution in terms of what Hart was trying to accomplish, especially in regards to the man the Afghan leaders thought was in a U.S. prison and what was going on with him. Considering that we learn in the first book that Hart is the bad guy, I feel like we needed more here to continue the suspense and I just feel like things felt a little short, both in the realism and the excitement of the chase.
I also had trouble really accepting how easily Jordan was able to keep up communication with Adeela. She is married to a terrorist who runs the prison and is league with Hart. We know her husband rigidly controls everything she does, and she is terrified of him. Yet, she emails with Jordan all the time, the two chat over Skype regularly. She is able to give him critical information and apparently has no fear of discovery about any of this. I just couldn’t reconcile that on one hand her husband is supposed to be this horrible, controlling bad guy who murders and sadistically tortures people, and on the other hand, his wife happily chats away, bantering over Skype with the American man she helped escape from her husband’s prison. It just seemed like an easy plot device to keep Adeela in the story and give the men easy access to information, rather than being realistic in any way.
The last thing I want to point out that this the second book of a two-part set and needs to be read in conjunction with Angel’s Hero. This story can’t stand alone and the first definitely can not as nothing gets wrapped up there and that book ends in a cliffhanger. I really feel these books would be better suited to single novel broken into two parts, rather than making readers buy both since you really can’t read one without the other. That said, I do think Borino does a good job of giving us enough information about the first book here without too much back story repetition. I read both books back to back so I didn’t really need it, but if you had a gap in between books there is a nice amount of recap to remind you of key events without being overwhelming.
So overall I think there were some nice things about these books. Aaron and Jordan were the highlight for me and I enjoyed seeing an established couple with such a strong bond between them. They are both tough and determined and will do anything for each other. I think that some things really needed better developing on the suspense end, however, to make that part of the story both more realistic and more exciting. But this is a nice set of books and for fans of established couples and some light suspense it could be a good choice.