Action Round-Up!

It’s round-up time again.

This time around I’m going to look back at some of my favourite action/intrigue/suspense novels. There’s a fair number of this type of book in lesfic – a little bit of action and danger seems to move the romance along. For this particular round-up I’m going to focus on military and espionage types of books. Normally, I’m not a big reader of these kinds of books – was never in the military and have little frame of reference for them. These books stand out are good solid action novels that manage to transcend into some interesting character studies and fascinating reads.

Whatever Gods May Be by Sophia Kell Hagin

If you’re looking for something different, this is definitely a book I’d recommend. The novel follows Jamie Gywnmorgan, a young woman who joins the Marines, struggles her way through basic training and sniper school and then is deployed into a war zone. Kell Hagin makes this a fascinating story – both with her writing style as well as with the story itself. Jamie is a survivor and the author reveals her and the world she lives in slowly, never dumping expository information and the bits and pieces you pick up about her past fit perfectly (and give a bit more insight) to her character as she grows within the book. I’d definitely classify this as a military/action, with a bit of speculative fiction as it is set sometime in the not so distant future. Some of the technology and the conflict she enters as a Marine may be new, but the core of the book – Jamie and those around her – experiences are familiar and universal. Ignore the book blurb because is does absolutely no justice to this book. Just pick it up and read it.

Rennie Vogel Series by Amy Dawson Robertson

This is definitely a kick-ass series – well-written, intriguing characters and storylines that are both topical and riveting. Rennie Vogel is an FBI agent who has been recruited for a special/black ops force. She’s faced with a tremendous amount of backlash because of her gender, but she proves herself as tough and resilient as her male counterparts and is grudgingly given a position on the team. The team’s first mission is to be dropped into Tajikistan and eliminate a charismatic extremist who is running a terrorist training camp. Things go terribly wrong and Rennie is forced to complete the mission, not knowing that a kidnapped American journalist is also being held at the compound. Scapegoat is a follow-up where Rennie and Hannah are both dealing with the aftermath of the Tajikistan mission … or not dealing with it. It was refreshing to see that there wasn’t a pat HEA after the first novel – bad things happened and both characters are struggling with that – and this gives the reader an even better understanding of both characters. Don’t worry, this isn’t a maudlin or introspective book – there’s plenty of action and intrigue and Robertson builds a plausible situation as well as ratchets up the suspense so you don’t want to put the books down until you find out how it will all end. The set-up of the second book and the attention Robertson put into the supporting characters makes me think (hope) that there will be more to come in this series. I just hope she writes fast.

Elite Operatives Series by Kim Baldwin and Xenia Alexiou

This series had been out for a few years before I actually bought the first book. There was something about the covers and the big splashy “Elite Operatives Series” that made me cringe and think this was going to be cheesy – plus I’m never sure about what to expect when books are co-authored. I’m still not a fan of the covers – but once I started reading the first one, I was hooked. This is a great series that invites you to suspend your disbelief for a little bit and let yourself enjoy the fast-paced plots full of suspense, intrigue, and smoldering romance. I’m not sure how Kim Baldwin and Xenia Alexiou divide the writing, but the narrative is smooth and flows well and the plots are a hell of a lot of fun to read.

The premise of the series is that there is a clandestine organization that recruits orphans from around the world to be the perfect spies and intelligence operatives. Without any family or national identity, they are bound to the organization, and to the highest bidder, for their services. The organization grooms and trains these children and young adults and the best of the best are elevated to the Elite Operative level and they are hired to perform a myriad of tasks from assassination, to re-appropriating stolen treasures, to hostage extraction. Each Operative has their own set of skills, and idiosyncrasies, and the series features a new protagonist and mission each book. The stories are set in present day but as they progress, the authors have taken some liberties with current events and done some interesting things.

Characters from previous books make cameos and there is continuity between books. Despite the links between the books, you could read any one of them as a standalone; however, being the obsessive reader that I am, I recommend starting at the beginning and working your way through them. I read somewhere that this is intended to be a seven book series – which is actually nice to hear. It means that the authors have an overarching storyline with a definitive end and the series won’t fall into the rut of formulaic storylines and characters. You can see it in each book as they set up the next story and characters.

Overall this is a fun read – the plots are full of twists and turns, with a fair bit of action, witty dialogue, lots of hot and heavy build-up of romance, and a nice bit of brooding angst (how can you be an international assassin without just a little angst).

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